IT IS believed to be the first pub in York to introduce CCTV inside its toilet cubicles to combat drug use, but the decision has provoked privacy concerns.

The Rose & Crown, in Lawrence Street, installed cameras inside the cubicles in the ladies' toilets about a month ago following problems with women - and men - using surfaces in the stalls to prepare lines of cocaine to snort.

Because of the small number of female staff in the pub working busy Friday and Saturday nights, the management found it difficult to patrol the area.

Some people had even entered the pub through its backdoor, going straight into the ladies' toilets to take drugs, without drinking at the bar.

After consulting with licensing officers at the police and City of York Council, landlord and landlady Peter and Jill Green installed a camera in each cubicle, directed at the surfaces above and behind the toilet itself.

The Greens are currently out of the country, but manager Sarah Coates defended the pub's decision.

She assured customers they could not be viewed while on the toilet. She said: "We have the cameras in the cubicles, but they only look up from a certain height. When people are sitting down, you can't see anything at all. We have signs up too, which the police have seen."

She said the cameras were motion-sensitive and only switched on when they detected motion in the area above and behind the toilets.

"I've had customers come in with concerns," said Sarah, who lives on the premises. "I say to them that I don't mind them coming up into my living room to see the recording."

The Press has seen the video procedure, which does not capture the toilet itself in the field of vision.

Sarah said CCTV had not been installed in the gent's because they had not had the same problems with drugs in there, due to slanted surfaces over the cistern and a more open entrance to the toilets from the bar.

"The men were going into the women's and in fact were selling drugs in there," she said.

"We tried everything. We had toilet monitors, but I'm the only woman working on Friday and Saturday nights, and you can't send men into the women's toilets.

"I feel safer going in there now. When we used to empty the sanitary bins in there, they'd be full of empty drugs plastic bags and there'd be drugs residue on the surface.

"I've seen none since we brought in the CCTV. I'm quite proud that we've managed to crack down on it."

But Simon Davies, director of Privacy International, said he was stunned at the move. "This is an intrusion into a private space," he said. "If the pub has a problem with drugs, they have to act within the law to combat it, and the law is very clear that there are very limited circumstances where such intrusion can take place.

"I can't understand why people would go to a pub where people are videoing them on the toilet. This is a gross invasion of people's privacy."

He said he had serious concerns about the CCTV falling foul of data protection legislation: "I would have thought anyone complaining to the Information Commissioner would receive a positive response."

But police licensing officer Mick Wilkinson said Mrs Green had assured him she was operating within the guidelines set down by the Information Commissioner.

"She's a very responsible licensee and I'm fully supportive of any such crime prevention methods," he said.

Women felt uncomfortable'

VICTORIA Frame, 34, of Rawcliffe, and Deborah Styles, 36, of Lawrence Street, visited the Rose & Crown on Saturday with their boyfriends to watch the Grand National.

They were shocked to see the CCTV system in the ladies' toilets. "It made me feel uncomfortable," Deborah said. "I think it's absolutely bang out of order - I definitely wouldn't go back."

Victoria said: "I couldn't believe it when I saw them. I was a bit shocked by it. My boyfriend asked them why they don't just take the shelf out or put a slope on it."

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