A TAXI boss has vowed to continue his fight against compulsory spy cameras in cabs after a judge found they were “unlawful” but said that he could not overturn the council’s policy.

A civil liberties watchdog last night joined the calls for the “taxicam” policy to be binned but Southampton City Council insisted that the controversial CCTV cameras, which record images and all conversations, were vital for the safety of passengers and drivers.

The cameras cannot be switched off, even when cabbies are using their cars for personal reasons.

Cab firm boss Kevin May, who has paid out £30,000 to challenge the cameras in the courts, said that he was considering a judicial review after the council won an appeal over a district judge’s ruling against the cameras.

He said: “I’ve been vindicated. The council won on a legal technicality. The council has brought in something that two judges have said is unlawful.”

Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, described it as absurd that the city council was pressing ahead with the cameras.

He said: “Recording every conversation in the back of taxis treats everyone as a criminal but does not make anyone safer.

“Southampton council should listen to the court and to the public and abandon this policy without delay.”

Mr May argued the surveillance from the cameras invaded the right to privacy for both the driver and passengers.

He accused the council of wasting taxpayers’ money by subsidising their installation and said that there would be calls for compensation from the trade.

The cameras cost up to £700 each, of which cabbies have to pay about £300.

About 450 of the 1,000 hackney carriages and private hire cars in Southampton have the cameras installed, which two years ago became a licensing condition.

Recorder Stewart Patterson, sitting at Salisbury Crown Court, said that he had no jurisdiction to overturn the camera policy but if he had, he would have found it was “not lawful”.

The judgement said: “It was not reasonably necessary to install audio cameras on a permanent basis in all taxis in Southampton to pursue the council aims of preventing crime and disorder and improving safety.”

It added that the recording of every conservation was “invasive”, “disproportionate”

and a “violation” of article 8 of the Human Rights Act, the right to privacy.

Recorder Patterson added that an application to the High Court for a judicial review was the right way to challenge the policy.

Council leader Councillor Royston Smith said last night: “I am still waiting for the official court judgement. However if it is the case that our appeal has been successful it is a victory for the safety of drivers and passengers in taxis in the city and the wider country.”