Met make first facial recognition arrest amid Christmas shoppers

Met Police use state-of-the-art facial recognition technology amid London’s Christmas shopping crowds to arrest suspect wanted for violence

  • Scotland Yard is trialing new technology which scans the faces of passers-by
  • A man wanted over violence was arrested near Leicester Square yesterday
  • Critics say the move is an intrusion on the rights of people in public spaces 

A suspect has been arrested by police during a trial of controversial facial recognition technology among Christmas shoppers in central London.

Pedestrians in Leicester Square are being filmed by cameras, which then cross-check a photo of their face against a database of wanted criminals.

Officers using the system made three arrests yesterday, although the detention of only one person, a man wanted over violence, was thanks to the technology. 

A man was arrested yesterday during a trial by police of face recognition technology. It is unclear whether he was the person detained after being identified by the cameras, or whether he was one of two other arrested by police independently of the technology’s use

An unmarked police van with a camera on top scans the faces of pedestrians before officers swoop on anyone identified as a wanted criminal

Another man was stopped due to the technology, but found not to be the man the computer thought he was. However, he was arrested as he was wanted over another alleged offence. 

Rights group Big Brother Watch say the move is a ‘breach of fundamental rights to privacy and freedom of assembly’.

They have been monitoring the officers and say some people have been stopped for covering their faces and police treat those who avoid the cameras with suspicion.  

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But the police insist people can decline to be scanned without arousing suspicion and the move is necessary to crack down on spiraling violence crime.

A mandate they have produced to guide officers states: ‘It is right and appropriate to bring people who are unlawfully at large to justice as they may otherwise pose a threat of safety to the public through the commission of crime. 

‘This approach is less intrusive than other methods of tracing wanted persons. It is less resource intensive which will save police time and money and allow police to concentrate resources on other priorities.’ 

Campaigners say the use of the technology is a step too far towards a police state

Police having been using the cameras in Soho, Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square this week. 

The cameras are accompanied by plainclothes ‘spotters’ watching for those who act suspiciously when they see the cameras.

The technology was first deployed by South Wales Police ahead of the 2017 Champions League final in Cardiff.

That trial led to the technology wrongly matching more than 2,000 people to possible criminals.



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