Many of you will be aware of ANPR (automatic number plate recognition)but not to the extent that it can be used. Most of you will believe it is only used to ‘help detect, deter and disrupt criminality at a local, force, regional and national level, including tackling traveling criminals, Organised Crime Groups and terrorists.’ As stated on the UK police website but it reaches much further than that.
Automatic number plate recognition cameras read and record every number plate that passes and there are over 8000 cameras in the UK that record between 25 to 30 million ‘reads’ per day. These are then stored for up to 2 years on the national ANPR data centre and can be accessed by the police to investigate crimes. As they pass the camera they are also checked against a database record of vehicles of interest. The cameras also not only read the number plate but take a picture of it and of the front of the vehicle to capture and image of the driver.
The locations of the fixed cameras are not disclosed and there are also mobile cameras that can detect your movements. This is because the police believe it would benefit those trying to avoid detection.
The police are using these cameras more frequently as part of their investigations to show movements of vehicles that are linked to offenders as evidence of being involved in crimes.
As you can see ANPR gives the police extraordinary powers of surveillance which can be used not just to target criminals.
John Catt, an 80-year-old pensioner and his daughter, neither of whom had any criminal conviction, were stopped in 2005, had their vehicle searched by City of London Police and were threatened with arrest if they refused to answer police questions. After making formal police complaints, it was discovered they were stopped after their vehicle had been picked up by ANPR cameras and being marked as a vehicle of interest on the Police National Computer database as a result of them being spotted attending EDO MBM demonstrations in Brighton. They had not been suspected of any crime, and supporters would argue that they were unfairly targeted due to their associations.
It is believed in theory that the systems could be changed to only target persons or vehicles of interest instead of members of the public going about their daily business, but this has not been implemented and many people aren’t even aware of the fact that their journeys are being recorded and kept in this way.
So next time you are on the roads keep and eye for the cameras watching and recording your daily journeys.
If you have any queries regarding ANPR evidence and its implications contact our specialist team at Burton Copeland on 0161 827 9500 or email [email protected]