Legal challenge over Met Police access to ULEZ cameras

London Assembly member Sian Berry and mayor Sadiq Khan

London Assembly member Sian Berry and mayor Sadiq Khan - Credit: PA

A legal challenge has been launched against the mayor of London's decision to allow the Met Police access to cameras monitoring the expanded Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). 

London Assembly member and Highgate councillor Sian Berry (Green) is working with Open Rights Group, a privacy campaigning organisation, and law firm Bindmans, to prevent the introduction of a new police surveillance network without public consultation with Londoners.

In 2014 Boris Johnson, then Conservative mayor of London, granted "limited access" to data from automated number-plate recognition (ANPR) road cameras.

Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan expanded the powers in May to include the whole of inner London, not just the congestion charging zone and "enhanced contextual imagery data" from road cameras.  

The Met Police is currently in special measures after a series of scandals.

An London's Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) sign

An London's Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) sign - Credit: PA

Ms Berry said: “I am deeply disappointed that the mayor has not listened to repeated warnings that sharing the cameras from the expanded clean air zone with the police was a huge increase in surveillance of Londoners that should not be signed off by his office.   

 “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.  

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“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.   

“The expanded ULEZ has been helping cut air pollution for many months already, without all this data being shared with police, and the mayor must now reverse his hasty decision and instead protect Londoners’ privacy.” 

The executive director of the Open Rights Group (ORG), Jim Killock, said:  “With a stroke of a pen, Sadiq Khan has taken a decision that violates the basic privacy rights of millions of Londoners.  

“As a former human rights lawyer, Sadiq Khan should know that his decision to grant access to the Metropolitan Police is unlawful without meaningful public consultation.

"Sadiq Khan should explain why he has chosen to ignore the views of the Independent Advisory Group on these road cameras who have called his plan as a 'gargantuan increase of surveillance in London' and have questioned the legality of it.  

“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 and ongoing monitoring by stakeholders. This requires active engagement with non-dominant communities and groups which stand to be disproportionately impacted by over-policing.” 
 
Salima Budhani, partner in the public law and human rights team at Bindmans, said:  “The aim of this case is to require the mayor of London to consult with Londoners about the proposed sharing of location records and images from TfL’s ANPR cameras with the Metropolitan Police.  

“The scheme involves sharing with the police a vast amount of data recording the whereabouts of Londoners going about their daily lives.  The mayor was under a clear duty to provide information and seek views before signing off the scheme.  

“Had he done so our clients and others would have had an opportunity to air their concerns about the privacy risks involved which should have been taken into consideration by the mayor in reaching a decision on this important issue.”

A spokesperson 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.”