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Body scanners used for the first time in UK railway station to detect concealed weapons

Five-day Home Office pilot

26 September 2019
Body scanners used for the first time in UK railway station to detect concealed weapons

The British Transport Police have trialled new security technology for a five-day Home Office pilot. This included body scanners that detect objects concealed in clothing, including guns, knives and explosive devices. The scanners, which identify objects that are blocking body heat, were being used at Stratford station in East London at rush hour, prompting a range of reactions.

James Beckles, Newham Council’s cabinet member for crime and community safety, said he anticipated that the technology would largely be used on young people, pointing out that ‘police officers are briefed that this is going to be voluntary. Anyone who is stopped can also say no and I hope the police won’t be misleading people about it.’ 

Residents have raised concerns about privacy and expressed doubt over how effective this measure will be, suggesting those carrying weapons could simply avoid stations where body scanners are in use, and that people whose weapons are removed will likely be able to acquire others. One resident suggested the £40,000 spent by the Home Office on the project could be put to better use by funding grass-roots community projects. However, the move has been welcomed by some, including Sue Scott-Horne, founder of Let’s Get Talking, a charity working to educate young people about the dangers of knife crime, who said body scanners could save lives: ‘anything anywhere that identifies someone […] carrying a knife or gun has got to be good, because we have got to stop this devastation.’

It is not clear what evaluation was being done in relation to the trial, and whether issues around proportionality and privacy, as well as effectiveness, were being considered.

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