UPDATED JULY 2013
The use of ANPR by police and security services has had some striking successes in terrorism cases. But as with CCTV use, motorists are entitled to expect that this Big Brother network falls to be regulated and accountable under the laws which Parliament has enacted for the purpose. The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 clearly places ANPR alongside CCTV in legal status, yet there seems to be no appetite to clarify the extent to which the UK police ANPR network must comply with the new law.
ANPR is a sophisticated technological development which enables near-instant identification of “wanted” vehicles both stationary and moving. When used in travelling Mobile Enforcement Vehicles (MEVs) it can instantly record without the MEV’s operator involvement, the location and time of vehicles probably (but not necessarily) parked in contravention of parking restrictions, thereby initiating the near-automatic issuing of penalty charge demands to the vehicle owners.
In general terms NMAG recognises the benefits of automatic observation and recognition of vehicles for the prevention and solving of criminal and terrorist activity but NMAG has significant reservations for non-criminal activities not least when it is contrary to statutory guidance and especially when it is operated by private companies.
Police usage of ANPR
The use of ANPR by police forces is governed by the National ACPO ANPR Standards (NAAS) produced under the auspices of the Association Chief Police Officers. Version 4.12 of the NAAS was issued in November 2011. The current ‘strategy' for the use of ANPR by the police is set out the ANPR Strategy for the Police Service 2010-2013.
The intent of the police ANPR strategy is stated to: “target criminals through their use of the roads” and lists 21 organisations involved in combating criminal activities.
In neither the Standards nor the Strategy is there inclusion of any activity or body which is concerned with civil matters.
NMAG’s Problems with ANPR
- Growing use by local authorities for automated ticketing with ill regard for relevant laws and guidance.
- Private sector misuse, particularly by bailiffs’ mobile units.
- 15 million reported number-plate reads per day across the UK Police / Security Services network with 11 billion vehicle sighting details recorded and stored for up to 5 years.
- Dubious ‘crime prevention’ argument for failing to erect the necessary warning signs.
- It could be classed as covert surveillance and therefore should be operated in compliance with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA).
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