Sadiq Khan faces a possible legal challenge to his decision to grant the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) access to more detailed information from Transport for London’s expanding network of automatic number plate recognition cameras (ANPRCs), including those installed to monitor the newly-extended Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), without conducting a prior public consultation.
The action, which proposes a judicial review of mayoral decision MD2977, signed by the Mayor on 16 May, is being jointly brought by Green Party London Assembly member Sian Berry, Green Party regional officer David Farbey and the Open Rights Group, which seeks to raise awareness about the personal liberty implications of digital surveillance.
In a 50-page pre-action letter, released to On London, solicitors Bindmans say their clients intend to challenge MD2977 “on the basis that the Mayor was under a duty to undertake a public consultation prior to making the decision and failed to do so”.
Mayor Khan’s mayoral decision revokes and replaces a previous one signed by Boris Johnson in January 2015, which granted Transport for London authority to give the Met “general access to a feed of the data” collected by its cameras at that time to assist with “the detection and prevention of crime”.
The powers provided by the new decision, which Berry raised privacy-related concerns about with the Mayor during 2019, says it seeks to “increase the accuracy of the ANPRC dataset obtained by the MPS by adding corroborating still visual contextual still visual imagery”.
The Greens and their allies says this means the scope of the information for cameras to be shared will now extend beyond the data Johnson authorised for sharing to photographs showing the colour and make of vehicles as well as, possibly, the faces of drivers and nearby pedestrians.
They maintain that this combined with the increased amount of road covered by cameras monitoring the greatly-enlarged ULEZ amounts to what Berry calls “a huge increase in surveillance of Londoners” that Londoners have been denied a say about and that Khan should not have signed off.
The provisions of the mayoral decision are being brought in in two stages: the first applies to cameras covering the central London congestion charge zone and the London-wide Low Emission Zone, and the second to those installed for the expanded ULEZ area, which came into effect in October.
It will also apply to any future ANPRC network, such as the further expansion of the ULEZ to cover all of Greater London planned to take place next year and “to any ‘next generation’ smart road user charging scheme” that supersedes all other road pricing and anti-pollution schemes.
A spokesperson for Mayor Khan 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 [from Bindmans] and will respond in due course.”
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