The Environment Agency has launched a six month trial in the North East to equip enforcement officers with body worn cameras.

The first trial of its kind within the organisation, aims to improve the safety of the enforcement officers, who are often exposed to anti-social behaviour, threats and assaults, commonly when inspecting poorly performing sites, illegal and regulated waste sites, remote fisheries and navigation patrols and even during incident response.

The scheme has been launched after an Environment Agency employee, ex-police officer, Paul Whitehill, was threatened with violence on an illegal waste site during a routine visit. He suggested, that the police force works with body cameras on a daily basis and they are proven to be effective and prevented some threatening situations from escalating, therefore they could improve the safety of environmental enforcement workers.

Environment Agency waste enforcement officers encounter aggressive behaviour on a regular basis across the country. Since 2001, the Environment Agency has successfully prosecuted 59 cases of obstruction, hostility or threatening behaviour towards the officers, 22 of which were in the North East.

Rachael Caldwell from the Environment Agency's Waste and enforcement Department said: “The safety of our staff is paramount. They are well trained in dealing with hostile situations and we take any threat against them very seriously. But our preference is to prevent hostility in the first place.”

Officers who take part in the pilot scheme must follow specific guidelines on the use of body cameras. They will not be permanently switched on, and people will be informed that they are being filmed. If they are filmed, the footage is automatically deleted after a month, unless it is required for evidential purposes.