Thank you. It is not illegal to secretly record meetings between individuals. Whether any legal issues arise as a result depends on the contents of the conversation being recorded and how the recording is to be used.
The first issue is in relation to third party confidentiality. The Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) applies to situations involving the processing of personal data. If the recording deliberately or accidentally records personal data about a third party, then its use could be restricted by the DPA. As such, try not to keep any recordings that contain such information.
The second issue is to do with the intended use of the recording. If this is to be used as evidence in court, whilst the court retains the final authority on whether it should be allowed as evidence, certain principles exist and can be considered in advance.
The leading case is that of Dogherty v Chairman and Governors of Amwell School. Mrs Dogherty, a teacher in the school, had made secret recordings of an "open" disciplinary meeting that she was subjected to and the subsequent "private" appeal meeting, held in her absence. She then tried to use these recordings as evidence in her claim for unfair dismissal against the school.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal decided the following:
· The contents of the "open" disciplinary hearing were capable of being secretly recorded as it was directly relevant to the teacher's claim
· The recording of the "private" appeal hearing was not admissible as evidence. As this was conducted in private, it was not directly relevant to the claim.
A more recent case is that of Punjab National Bank v Gosain, where an employee covertly recorded private discussions made by the employer as part of a grievance and disciplinary hearing. The employer may inappropriate remarks about the employee and the Employment Appeals Tribunal decided that this is admissible evidence as the comments did not form part of the deliberation process of the grievance and disciplinary.
So whether a court would allow the use of a secret recording very much depends on the contents of the recording and the nature of the meeting that was being recorded. As long as there is no illegal recording of personal data about others and the conversation that was recorded was not part of private deliberations about the issues at hand, there is a good argument that their use as evidence should be allowed.