Public Debate: ANPR - Fighting Crime or Fighting Pollution?

Monday, October 2, 2023 -
18:00 - 21:00

*** CANCELLED *** Due to unforseen circumstances this event is now cancelled

This public debate will explore issues associated with the recent rise in the use of ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) systems in public places across the UK. Initially ANPR systems were deployed in the 1990s to help identify and track criminals, but over time these systems have evolved to assist with a range of motoring and traffic offences, and most recently have become a core technology in enforcing bus lane and low emission zone schemes, as well as widespread deployment in car parks. 

In this respect, there has been a noticeable shift in the way that ANPR technology is used, from a primary concern with criminal behaviour to a tool used to support other public service activity, including tackling climate change. The essence of this debate is whether we should be concerned about the subtle shift from policing criminality to other public service contexts. 

Of particular interest is whether ANPR has become another form of mass surveillance where people’s movements are routinely captured and kept, raising privacy concerns or are we simply seeing an inevitable expansion of a critical piece of the national policing infrastructure?

Issues likely to be explored during the debate are:

  • How does ANPR work and is it a reliable technology?
  • How many ANPR cameras are in use?
  • How is ANPR used in policing and other public service contexts?
  • What is the role played by ANPR in the provision of low emissions zones (LEZ and ULEZ)?
  • What do motorists feel about the expansion of ANPR use?
  • Has there been a rise in numberplate cloning alongside the diffusion of ANPR?
  • What oversight mechanism are there for the use of ANPR?
  • What happens to the data captured by ANPR cameras?
  • What agencies regulate and govern the use of ANPR?

To get a better understanding of how ANPR has diffused into a variety of public service environments, including policing and motoring, the Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner in conjunction with CRISP has organised a public debate where experts in the area will discuss the key issues arising from this diffusion. Taking place before a live audience, attendees will be able to ask questions of the speakers about the implications of the extended use of ANPR. 

The event will be organised around a series of short expert statements, which will be debated with the audience and the other expert panellists. There will be lots of opportunities for audience participation, either through the Question-and-Answer session, social media, or the online polling that will take place during the event.

Experts who will be participating in the event include: - Professor William Webster - Director of CRISP, University of Stirling

  • Professor Fraser Sampson – Commissioner, Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner
  • Robert Laugharne – Managing Director, Hills Number Plate
  • Madeleine Stone - Senior Advocacy Officer, Big Brother Watch
  • Theo Blackwell – Chief Digital Officer, Mayor of London Office
  • Charlie Hall – Chief Constable, Hertfordshire Police
  • Robert Gurney – Visiting Research Fellow, University of Hertfordshire

Registration for the event will start at 18:00 with the event finished by 21:00

Timings are as follows:

18:00 Registration and refreshments

18:45 Public debate and discussion starts

20.15 Public debate and discussion finishes

20.45 Close

Admission to the event is free. All audience members must register via the Eventbrite page to attend. Each audience member can reserve up to three tickets. Final joining details, including location, will be emailed to audience members a couple of days prior to the event. 

The event will be recorded and will be available online. Audience members will be asked to consent to this recording as part of the ticketing process.

Further information about the event is available on the Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner and CRISP websites:

Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner - GOV.UK (


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