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Officer assaulted as facial recognition deployment sees wanted man identified in Soho

A camera being used during trials at Scotland Yard for the new facial recognition system.  (Press Association Images/Press Association Images)
A camera being used during trials at Scotland Yard for the new facial recognition system. (Press Association Images/Press Association Images)

A man arrested by the Met after being caught by its controversial Live Facial Recognition (LFR) technology is still in custody after he attacked a police officer.

The 26-year-old was picked up after officers used the technology, where cameras scan an area and analyse every person that passes through, in Wardour Street, Soho, on Saturday night.

It identified him as being wanted for failing to appear for sentencing on May 5 at Thames Magistrates’ Court.

He assaulted a police officer while being stopped and was arrrested on suspicion of assaulting an emergency worker and possession of drugs in addition to the original offence.

The officer, a sergeant attached to the Met’s Violent Crime Taskforce, was treated in hospital for head injuries and has been discharged.

The arrested man had been found guilty of two counts of possession of pointed/bladed articles at Thames Magistrates’ Court on 4 April 2023.

That followed his arrest in Woodfield Road, W2, on November 16, 2021, after officers were called to a disturbance and he was found carrying two knives.

The Government is currently considering expanding its use of LFR technology in police forces and security agencies.

The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) – the part of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) tasked with finding and funding technology for the armed forces, police and security services – has called on companies to help find “solutions that can help increase the use and effectiveness of facial recognition technologies within UK policing and security”.

The “market exploration” – which will run until October 12 – is looking for ideas that “could be deployed to benefit the Home Office and policing and within the next 18 months”.

Campaigners branded the move “disturbing” and “unnecessary” as they likened it to “Orwellian mass surveillance” in Russia and China.

But policing minister Chris Philp and Professor Paul Taylor, the police chief scientific adviser, said they “strongly support” the potential expansion and use of the technology.

The use of LFR by police forces in public places has raised concerns about privacy and there are also questions about how data is stored and the companies who supply the technology.

Silkie Carlo, director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “It’s disturbing and deeply undemocratic that the Government is planning to expand facial recognition surveillance in the UK. This is an Orwellian mass surveillance tool rarely seen outside of Russia and China and has absolutely no place in Britain.

“The Government has no mandate at all to do this, and the fact that the rest of the democratic world is legislating to ban live facial recognition surveillance shows just how backwards the Home Office’s approach to this is.”

Megan Goulding, a lawyer at civil rights group Liberty, said: “We all have the right to go about our lives freely, without being scanned and monitored. It’s unacceptable that the Government is now looking for new ways to invade our privacy and free expression using facial recognition technology.

“This dystopian technology subjects anyone existing in public to intrusive surveillance, and has a harsher impact on those communities who are already unfairly targeted by the police.”