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"Serious Flaws" in Automatic Number Plate Recognition System

February, 20 2011


The police's Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system has come under extreme criticism during an inquiry into the monitoring of sex offender, Peter Chapman.

In 2009, 17 year old Ashleigh Hall from Darlington was murdered by Chapman, having met him online.

Two inquiries are being conducted by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), looking into the monitoring of Chapman, with the first investigating the use of ANPR.

When Chapman failed to inform police of his change of address according  vehicle details were added to the Police National Computer in October 2009 by Merseyside Police; the month that Ashleigh was murdered.

ANPR "hits" were recorded by police forces in Durham, North Yorkshire and Cleveland between 23rd and 26th October.

He was arrested by Cleveland Police following these hits, and he confessed to Ashleigh's murder shortly afterwards.

"This investigation has highlighted serious flaws in the operation of the ANPR system," revealed IPCC Commissioner Nicholas Long.

"It is clear that it can be a very valuable asset, but it is dependent on the system being managed and monitored well and containing accurate information."

Mr Long added that there needed to be a "full review" to show the ANPR system can be beneficial.

When asked if better use of ANPR could have prevented Ashleigh's death, he revealed that it "impossible to say with certainty."

"But it is clear there were opportunities missed here," he continued.

"It took 16 hits on the ANPR system before Chapman was finally arrested.

"Tragically in that time he was able to enact his terrible plan to murder Ashleigh."

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