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UK police forces are reportedly trialling facial recognition systems in a bid to catch rioters, as the authorities step up their use of technology in their investigations into the trouble last week.

The systems were originally intended for the 2012 London Olympic Games, but the riots across the UK have presented an opportunity to test the technology.

Andy Trotter, Chief Constable at the British Transport Police, told the Associated Press that sophisticated facial recognition systems were being used to help locate the rioters. The main software is located at the Metropolitan Police’s New Scotland Yard headquarters.

"There's a mass of evidence out there," Trotter told the AP. He said that the system was generally only being used for suspects of the more serious crimes during the riots, with manual identification still forming the method by which most are caught.

For the systems to identify the suspects, it is understood the individuals already need to have a criminal record.

Last week, police forces across the UK began posting images of suspects, from CCTV and from members of the public, on the internet. A number of forces told that the investigations into the suspects could not be as effective without the technology.

The police initially faced some criticism for not being quick enough to tackle the riots, after many of the incidents were found to have been planned publicly on BlackBerry Messenger, Twitter and Facebook.

However, recent proposals by the government to consider blocking social media and text message access for rioters were met with strong opposition from human rights campaigners.