Sadiq Khan facing legal fight over police access to ULEZ cameras

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Sadiq Khan is facing a legal fight over plans to allow the Met Police access to ULEZ cameras (PA Archive)
Sadiq Khan is facing a legal fight over plans to allow the Met Police access to ULEZ cameras (PA Archive)

Sadiq Khan is facing a legal fight over plans to allow the Met Police access to traffic cameras monitoring the expanded Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ).

Campaigners on Wednesday accused the Mayor of creating “a huge increase in surveillance of Londoners” that will "disproportionately effect ethnic minorities" after he granted the force access to data from the Automated Number-Plate Recognition (ANPR).

The system scans roads in for vehicles entering and leaving the ULEZ in inner London, an area where 3.8 million people live.

It means Met officers will be be able to bring up images showing the colour and make of vehicles, and potentially the faces of drivers and people walking past on the pavement from the cameras that monitor the ULEZ, campaigners said.

Green Party London Assembly member Sian Berry is leading the legal challenge with digital rights organisation Open Rights Group.

Ms Berry said: “I have been telling the mayor since 2019 that sharing this data with the police is wrong and that Londoners must have their say in any decision.

"With so many awful revelations bringing trust and confidence in our police to an all-time low, Londoners should have been asked if they would trust them with this massive database about their daily movements.”  

Former Mayor Boris Johnson granted the Met limited access to ANPR cameras in 2014.

Mr Khan expanded these powers in May to include the whole of inner London and if proposals to widen the ULEZ next year are approved, the Met will have access to surveillance databases covering all of Greater London from August 2023.

Members of the Independent Advisory Group on ANPR road cameras have described the Mayor’s plans as “a gargantuan increase of surveillance in London" in areas where there is already a strong set of democratic structure, such as councils, and CCTV.

Executive Director of the Open Rights Group Jim Killock, said: “Sadiq Khan has taken a decision that violates the basic privacy rights of millions of Londoners. 

“London is one of the most surveilled cities in the world and with plans to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to cover the whole of Greater London from the end of 2023, every single car, driver and pedestrian in Greater London will be subject to surveillance by the Metropolitan Police, yet Londoners have had no say in this.

“We believe that the use of these camera, in particular by the police, should be subject to extremely rigorous oversight and deployed only after proper consultation."

The Met defended the need for the need for access to the data saying it would help the force protect the public.

A spokesman for the Mayor of London, said: “Modern technology has a vital role to play in protecting Londoners and tackling serious crime. The use of traffic cameras for ANPR has been in place since 2015 after being introduced by the previous Mayor. We are considering the letter and will respond in due course.”

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