IT firm in High Court battle over police surveillance contract
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London-based Excession Technologies has taken the Police Digital Service to court, alleging that a decision to award a contract to rival Airbox Systems was unfair.
The Police Digital Service, formerly the Police ICT Company, is responsible for delivering the National Policing Digital Strategy. It aims to protect people from harm not only by using technology but by developing its own capabilities and new ways of working. It describes itself as a body that “harnesses the power of digital, data, and technology” to assist law enforcement.
Now, IT firm Excession has sued the Police Digital Service, alleging that its decision to grant a contract to Airbox Systems, which provides digital solutions to various law enforcement and military bodies to assist practical operations, broke defence and security public contracts regulations regarding the awarding of public contracts. According to a report from The Register, the contract was worth up to £18m and involved provision of a mass surveillance platform.
The Police Digital Service disputes Excession’s allegation.
This week, Mrs Justice O’Farrell oversaw an online hearing into the case, which reviewed a number of preliminary issues. Joseph Barrett, a barrister representing the Police Digital Service, said that information contained in court papers was sensitive. He told the judge he would not want information released which could be of use to a terrorist group or organised crime group.
The judge said she would hear the case in public, but would try to ensure that sensitive information contained in paperwork was not aired at the hearing.
A barrister representing Excession Technologies argued that the Police Digital Service had acted in breach of the Defence and Security Public Contracts Regulations 2011.
Parishil Patel QC said the proceedings concerned the tender exercise carried out by the Police Digital Service for the appointment of a contractor to a “framework agreement for the provision of computer and IT services” to a surveillance operations room.
Patel explained that Excession was seeking either an order setting aside the decision to appoint Airbox Systems or damages including legal costs. He argued that the Police Digital Service should have rejected Airbox’s bid as “being abnormally low” and said the Police Digital Service made “manifest errors” in the scoring of “Demo Day presentations by Excession and Airbox”.
According to reports, eight companies were invited to a demonstration day organised by the Police Digital Service.
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