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Ruling Says Automatic Number Plate Recognition Cameras Do Not Breach Data Protection Laws

A challenge against the legality of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras was recently launched by a group in Gloucestershire. However, the claim that the ANPR system breached data protection laws was overruled by a Home Office watchdog this week.

Community Safety Group Backed by Police

As reported by Punchline, a legal challenge against ANPR cameras was set up by a body from Stroud, Gloucestershire. They claimed that the system was contrary to the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). The challenge led to fears by road safety groups that they might have to stop using the cameras.

ANPR cameras can recognise any UK number plate and bring up information on the vehicle and its owner from a central database. As well as the number plate, the cameras can record a vehicle’s speed and the date and time. The system can inform authorities if a car has no insurance, tax or MOT certificate, and also flags up alerts if the vehicle or owner has been involved in criminal activity. Based on the information received, the police can stop the vehicle and question the occupants.

The challenge against the system was in turn challenged by the Gloucestershire Community ANPR Road Safety Group (GCARSG) with the backing of the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC). The Surveillance Camera Commissioner, a Home Office watchdog, ruled that the use of the cameras is legal.

On assessing the operation of the cameras, the watchdog found that the actual number plates don’t have any personal information attached to them. The plates identify a vehicle but information on the owner can only be accessed by the DVLA from their database or the police via the Police National Computer.

Victory for Road Safety

In Gloucestershire, the GCARSG operates community speed cameras, many with support and funding from the Police Crime Commissioner’s Office and local parish councils. The group had feared that the GDPR challenge would put a stop to the use of data from community ANPR cameras to track speeding and dangerous drivers. The chairman of GCARSG, Charles Pedrick, said,

"But thanks to the financial support of the PCC, we were able to mount a challenge. That has resulted in GCARSG getting accreditation and now other local schemes can take similar action with the reasonable expectation of being accredited too.

"I think the PCC and his office deserve great credit because without the funding and their support, the system might have been turned off. Instead, the assessor stated that he was happy we are using an ANPR system and we have a certificate to prove it".

PCC Martin Surl said that it was reassuring that the ANPR cameras are being legitimately and ethically operated. It shows the commitment of the GCARSG to making their community safer.

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