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Police get £13m number plate tracker

Cash to pay for a system of cameras that can keep tabs on terrorists and smugglers as they drive across Northern Ireland has been approved.

The PSNI has been given nearly £13m to pay for an Automatic Number Plate Reader (ANPR) system to be rolled out across the province that will allow officers to track suspects on the move.

MPs were told that Secretary of State Owen Paterson had to lobby the Treasury for the money but were warned that resources may not always be so readily available in the future as there was a “very tight fiscal round”.

Northern Ireland Minister Hugo Swire added: “While funding for the PSNI is, rightly, a matter for the devolved adminis- tration, the Government is committed to ensuring it has the resources available to deal with the security situation.

“That is why access to the Reserve is available to meet any exceptional security pressures relating to policing and justice.

“This money will help the Chief Constable counter those determined to use violence to try to bring down the peace process.”

The announcement in the Commons was welcomed by shadow Northern Ireland minister Paul Goggins and the DUP.

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DUP MP Ian Paisley said: “The threat of dissident republican terrorism must be taken on and defeated. The police should have at their disposal all necessary tools that can aid them in the battle against those who would seek to plunge Northern Ireland back into bloodshed and chaos.

“That includes special number plate recognition technology.

“The border between this part of the UK has been used down through the years by terrorists and illegal traders to their advantage.

“In the case of terrorists, they creep across the border commit their evil acts and then flee to the Republic where it is more difficult for our own police to locate and then extradite them to give account for their actions.”

But Alex Deane, director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “ANPR cameras are an unnecessary and indiscriminate invasion of privacy.

“And at almost £13m, this scheme is also very expensive. The uses to which it might be put in the sensitive context of Northern Ireland is very troubling. Freedom of expression, of movement, of association — all can be harmed by this intrusive technology.”

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