Melon Farmers Original Version

Policing of Photographers

Snapshot of a British police state


Offsite Article: Police still harassing photographers, this time at a Brighton shopping centre...

Link Here4th July 2015
Full story: Policing of Photographers...Snapshot of a British police state
For all the thousands of photographers that have been harassed by the authorities, I wonder if this has ever led to a terrorist being discovered.

See article from



Offsite Article: Act of Terror: Arrested for Filming Police Officers...

Link Here9th May 2013
Full story: Policing of Photographers...Snapshot of a British police state
Gemma Atkinson filmed the routine stop-and-search of her boyfriend. She was detained, handcuffed and threatened with arrest. She launched a legal battle and won. She has now produced an animated film about the incident.

See article from


30th April

 Offsite Article: Photographers harassed at stations...

While terrorists can work from home. By Cleland Thom. Thanks to Nick.

See article from


16th January

 Offsite: Police Censorship...

Should the Police Censor What Press Photographers Photograph On Public Streets?

See article from


14th October

Updated: Boycott Braehead...

Braehead shopping centre does its bit to add to the oppressive atmosphere in Britain

Braehead shopping centre has been shamed into reversing its ban on photography after an internet campaign.

It follows an oppressive incident at Glasgow's Braehead shopping centre when security guards challenged a man who had taken a photo of his young daughter.

Chris White was bullied by security guards and then questioned by police after taking a photo of four-year-old Hazel eating an ice cream on Friday.

White said that, when he was interviewed by police, an officer warned him that anti-terrorism powers meant his camera phone could be confiscated.

In response Chris White set up a Facebook page called Boycott Braehead which, by Monday evening, had been liked by about 20,000 people. In a message posted tonight on the Facebook page, White said he would continue to press for other shopping centres to change their policies. He wrote:

Hopefully we can now move forward with a common sense approach into a situation that allows families to enjoy precious moments with their children, but at the same time ensure that such public places are areas where we can feel safe and protected.

I have been overwhelmed by the public response on this issue and thank everyone for their support.

Capital Shopping Centres said the new rules would apply immediately to its 11 UK shopping centres. These include the Trafford Centre, near Manchester, Lakeside, in Essex, the Metrocentre, in Gateshead, and the Mall at Cribbs Causeway in Bristol. It said the policy was also likely to be adopted at three other centres in which it is a partner.

Staff will no longer try to prevent family and friends taking pictures of each other, although security guards might still challenge anyone acting suspiciously.

Capital Shopping Centres, which also owns malls in Cardiff, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich and Nottingham, said: CSC can confirm that we will be changing the photography policy at our 11 directly owned centres and that at the other three centres, which we own in partnership with other companies, we will be discussing with our partners the policy change and recommending that it be adopted.

Update: Police dispute White's account BUT won't tell us their side of the story

14th October 2011.  See  press release from
See also Are police attempting to smear The Braehead One, ask his supporters from

Rob Shorthouse, Director of Communications for Strathclyde Police said:

It is absolutely right and proper that when a complaint about the police is made that it is fully investigated. The public need to know that their complaints are taken seriously and are acted upon promptly and professionally. This is exactly what has happened in this incident.

Mr White complained to the police about the incident in Braehead. In his statement he set out a set of circumstances that has caused widespread debate, comment and criticism for those who he alleged were involved. Mr White chose to make his complaint public, to give interviews to the media and to seek debate on social networks.

We are well aware that, as a result of this social media conversation, demonstrations are being planned this weekend at Braehead. We have also seen global media coverage of the incident -- all of which has painted the shopping centre, this police force and, arguably, our country in a very negative light.

It is because Mr White chose to seek publicity for his account of events and because of the planned demonstration that we feel compelled to take the unusual step of making our findings public.

In reaching our conclusions, officers took statements from a number of independent witnesses and viewed the substantial amount of CCTV that was available in the centre.

On reviewing all of this objective evidence, I have to tell you that we can find no basis to support the complaint which Mr. White has elected to make.

The members of the public who asked for the security staff to become involved have told us that they did so for reasons which had absolutely nothing to do with him taking photographs of his daughter. They had a very specific concern, which I am not in a position to discuss publicly, that they felt the need to report. It was because of this very specific concern that security staff became involved. They were right to raise their concern and we are glad that they did so.

The security staff were the ones who asked for police involvement. Again, this was not because Mr White said he had been photographing his daughter, but was due to the concerns that they themselves had regarding this particular incident.

When our officers became involved they did not confiscate any items, nor was Mr White questioned under counter terrorist legislation. It is wrong to suggest that the police spoke to Mr White because he claimed he had been photographing his daughter, or that officers made any reference to counter terror legislation. Mr. White knows, or ought to know, why our officers spoke with him.

Since Mr White chose to publish his version of events on Facebook, we have seen substantial traditional media and social media activity around the story. People have been very quick to offer their opinions on this issue and were very keen to accept Mr White's story as the only evidence that was available. Clearly this was not the case.

Social media allowed this story to spread quickly around the world. I hope that the same media allows this part of the tale to move just as quickly.

For the avoidance of any doubt, we have fully investigated this incident and we can say that none of the independent and objective evidence presented to us by either the members of the public or the CCTV backs up the claims made by Mr White.

Comment: Miserable Britain

Perhaps indeed there may indeed be question marks over this case.

But I think the police have missed the point, if they think the widespread sympathy with White's campaign is just down to this one incident, then they are clearly wrong.

Public protest has kicked off because of a long history of police and security staff taking it on themselves to ban public photography for trivial reasons taken out of all perspective. Not to mention the general officious and repressive climate in Britain, where jumped up officials take it on themselves to try and micro manage people's day to day behaviour to match some politically correct dystopia.

If the authorities are worried by public responses such as this, perhaps they should look to the wider issues of the authoritarian political correctness that is making Britain truely miserable.


20th January

Update: Happy Shoppers...

Photographers still being harassed

Police insist they had every right to stop an innocent 78-year-old who was taking photographs in Norwich city centre but have refused to say why his actions were deemed suspicious .

A security guard had approached retired university professor Howard Temperley after he was seen taking pictures of people doing Christmas shopping. Howard, who was using a compact camera, told the Norwich Evening News: No sooner had I begun taking pictures than a security man was at my elbow asking me what I was doing. I said I was taking pictures of happy shoppers.

Howard planned to turn his photos into computer-generated sketches for Christmas cards.

After leaving the shopping centre police stopped him in nearby St Stephen's Street. Officers reportedly allowed Howard to continue on his way - but only after recording his name, address and date of birth and checking his details with the force's headquarters.

Chapelfield Shopping Centre managers defended the move, saying that the building and its immediate surroundings were private property. In a statement, the centre's marketing manager Sheridan Smith told AP: Our security team will always challenge members of the public taking photographs in and around the centre, especially if the photographer is photographing the building itself or groups of shoppers who are obviously not friends or family of the photographer.


15th August

Update: Tables Turned on Snooping Jobsworth...

CCTV car warden gets wound up by somebody filming him

It is the moment the cameras were turned on Medway's hated spy car.

The CCTV car driver has been caught on video getting angry with a member of the public for filming him at work.

Bill Khan captured footage of the unnamed warden getting out of the vehicle to confront him, holding his clipboard up to the camera.

He is heard saying: Do not take my photograph, you haven't got my permission to take my photograph.

Khan responds: But this is public.

The operator replies: No, it's not, cause you are not allowed to take my photograph like I'm not allowed to take yours. Why are you doing this, you're harassing me.

He then says he is going to phone the police and can be seen dialling a number before Khan wanders off.

Khan, who sent his video to the Medway Messenger, said: Is this how Medway Council train their employees? Not very good ambassadors for the council, are they?

Medway Council said Khan could not have been arrested for filming the warden, but declined to comment further.


6th August

Update: Lawbreakers...

Police continue to harass photographers

Journalist Carmen Valino had images deleted from her camera by police and was threatened with arrest whilst photographing the scene of a shooting in Hackney, East London. The incident happened as Valino photographed the crime scene from outside a police cordon whilst on assignment from the Hackney Gazette. She had identified herself as a journalist and showed her UK Press Card to police.

A police Sergeant approached Valino telling her that she was disrupting a police investigation and to hand over her camera. After protesting to the Sergeant that she was in a public place, outside the cordon he had no right to take her camera, he grabbed her wrist and pulled out his handcuffs. Before he could put the cuffs on she handed him her camera. He then left for five minutes before coming back, bringing Valino inside the cordon and asking her to show him the images and deleting them. Valino was told that she could come back in a few hours to photograph the scene.

This incident highlights how police officers are still woefully ignorant of the law regarding photography and the agreed ACPO Media Guidelines which state:

Members of the media have a duty to take photographs and film incidents and we have no legal power or moral responsibility to prevent or restrict what they record. It is a matter for their editors to control what is published or broadcast, not the police. Once images are recorded, we have no power to delete or confiscate them without a court order, even if we think they contain damaging or useful evidence.

Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary said: The abuse of the law must stop. There is a gulf between photographers legal rights and the current practices of individual police officers. The police should uphold the law, not abuse it – photographers acting in the public interest deserve better.


17th July

Update: May We Take Photos?...

Theresa May utters fine words about an end to the police harassment of photographers

Theresa May's made a speech in the House of Commons in a discussion of the absurd treatment of photographers under current anti-terror laws. Prompted by the excellent Tracey Crouch,  May gave the following assurance:

Tracey Crouch (Chatham and Aylesford) (Con): Under the previous Government, a photographer from Medway was arrested in Chatham high street under section 44 stop-and-search powers, and he and fellow photographers from Medway will welcome today's announcement from the Home Secretary. Will she assure the House that any future revision of anti-terror legislation will strike the right balance between protecting the public and safeguarding the rights of individuals?

Theresa May: I am happy to give that assurance to my hon. Friend. She may have noticed that in my statement I specifically said that we would look at the issue of photographers and stop-and-search powers. It is one issue that has been brought home forcibly to me. I have had constituency cases of people who have been stopped under those powers and been concerned about it, and I have received a number of representations from Members of this House, and indeed of another place, about those problems.


10th July

Update: Trains Packed with Officious Ticket Inspectors...

South West Trains gets nasty about photography

A UK rail passenger who took photographs of an overcrowded train carriage was threatened with arrest under anti-terror laws.

Nigel Roberts was so appalled by the cramped conditions commuters have to endure he warned a ticket inspector that dangerous overcrowding could cost lives.

But when he showed his mobile phone photos of luggage-crammed aisles and exits he was told it is illegal to take such pictures and threatened with prosecution.

The inspector then demanded Roberts' personal details as Roberts explained: When I told him I had taken some photos he said it was illegal under the Terrorism Act and that I could be arrested and demanded my name and address.

He said there were police officers on the train and I may be arrested for taking the photographs. He said he had powers given to him under the Railways Act to ask me for the information and it was an even more serious offence for me not to comply.

I felt as if I was in a police state. He explained that for some reason it was for my own protection but my argument was that every passenger on the train would have needed protection in the event of an emergency.

He told me he would make a note of our conversation so that they could be used in the event of a prosecution. He was pleasant enough but it was a frightening and chilling experience for me.

A spokeswoman for South West Trains - owned by the Stagecoach group - said: Staff are aware they need to be particularly attentive to unusual photos being taken or suspicious behaviour and to challenge this if necessary. However this was clearly not an issue in this case and we will ensure our staff are re-briefed to avoid any misunderstanding in the future. We are sorry for any upset and anxiety caused to Mr Roberts.


1st July

Update: More Shameful Policing...

Police recorded making up the law about public photography

On Saturday 26 June, photojournalist Jules Mattsson, who is a minor and was documenting the Armed Forces Day parade in Romford, was questioned and detained by a police officer after taking a photo of young cadets.

According to Mattsson, who spoke to BJP this morning, after taking the photo he was told by a police officer that he would need parental permission for his image. The photographer answered that, legally, he didn't. While he tried to leave the scene to continue shooting, a second officer allegedly grabbed his arm to question him further.

According an audio recording of the incident, the police officer argued, at first, that it was illegal to take photographs of children, before adding that it was illegal to take images of army members, and, finally, of police officers. When asked under what legislation powers he was being stopped, the police officer said that Mattsson presented a threat under anti-terrorism laws. The photographer was pushed down on stairs and detained until the end of the parade and after the intervention of three other photographers.

A spokeswoman, before commenting on the case, questioned, in a conversation with BJP, why Mattsson used an audio recording device, in this case a phone, to record the incident. Asked about it Mattsson says that he started recording only after he was aggressively taken aside by an officer . He also says that it isn't the first time he's been stopped and wanted a record of the incident to prove he wasn't breaching any laws.


29th June

Update: Police Officer Snapped...

Police apologise over human rights abuse of photographer

Once again, the Metropolitan police have been forced to apologise and accept liability for the actions of one of their officers. It's an embarrassing climbdown for the force, which could have very positive implications for press freedom in the UK, especially for journalists whose work is to cover political protest and dissent.

In December 2008, political journalists Marc Vallée and Jason Parkinson were deliberately obstructed from their work documenting protests outside the Greek embassy in London, which had erupted following the shooting of a teenage demonstrator by police in Athens. An armed officer from the Met's diplomatic protection group violently prevented the pair from filming or using still cameras to record events taking place around them, and a short while later two territorial support group officers forcibly removed Vallée and Parkinson from the scene altogether.

The Met agreed that the actions of that armed officer had been unlawful and in clear breach of article 10 of the European convention on human rights, which deals with freedom of expression. As the article states, all citizens have the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority . In an apology of unprecedented frankness, the police not only admitted liability, but went on to comment too on the wider implications of their actions. They stated:

The MPS [Metropolitan police service] confirms its recognition that freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democracy and that journalists have a right to report freely. The MPS recognise that on 8 December 2008 they failed to respect press freedom in respect of Mr Vallée and Mr Parkinson.


7th June

Update: Beach Bullies...

Beach photographers hassled by wardens who make up the law to suit themselves

A beach warden – who would only identify himself as Beach 8 – challenged a photographer as she took snaps on the promenade at Bournemouth.

He demanded to see a licence and told her she shouldn't be taking pictures without one. After years of taking photos on the beaches unchallenged, snapper Hattie Miles ploughed on regardless.

Stuart Terry, coastal works manager at Poole council, claimed that the beach was council land and it was standard industry practice to seek permission before taking pictures.

Amateur Photographer magazine - who have been among the most vocal opponents of the stopping and searching of photographers taking pictures of landmarks - have investigated further and found that the council's regulations are in place to prevent large-scale film crews, rather than individual people.


16th May

Updated: Police Shame...

Police continuing to bully and harass photographers

A photographer who prompted a debate over the abuse of police powers last year when he was apprehended for taking photographs of a London church was subjected today to an almost identical stop and search under anti-terrorist powers while trying to photograph the capital's skyline.

Grant Smith, a renowned architectural photographer, was taking photographs at One Aldermanbury Square, near London Wall, when he was stopped by officers from City of London police.

He said they prevented him from using his camera to film the stop and search, and held his arms behind his back as they searched through his possessions.

It is the second time in six months that Smith has been stopped by City police under section 44 of the Terrorism Act, which allows officers to stop and search anyone without need for suspicion in designated areas.

In a repetition of the earlier stop and search, Smith said he was first approached by a security guard asserting he could not photograph a building. When he asserted his lawful right to continue taking images, police were called.

He said two uniformed officers detained him, one by grabbing his arms behind his back, and refused requests to record the stop and search on his camera. He added that they even refused to let him use a pen and paper to note down their details.

He was told he was being held under section 44 because of his obstructive and non-compliant attitude , and said police left him feeling humiliated after manhandling him in front of office workers.

When the search was over, he asked the officers if he could continue taking photographs. There was an interesting display of petulance, he said. They just turned their back on me and walked away.

Update: Stasi Centre of Britain

16th May 2010. Based on article from

More than 5,000 security guards in London's financial district have been instructed by police to report people taking photographs, recording footage or even making sketches near buildings, the Guardian has learned.

City of London police's previously unseen advice singles out people who may appear to be legitimate tourists to supposedly prevent reconnaissance by al-Qaida.

The document, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, helps explain a number of recent cases in which photographers have been stopped and searched by police using section 44 of the Terrorism Act, after first being approached by security guards.

The police advice to security guards states: In this period of heightened alert, we must report possible reconnaissance to the police and develop a culture of challenging suspicious behaviour.

One category of suspicious behaviour is described as: People using recording equipment, including camera phones, or seen making notes or sketches for no apparent reason . One line in the document, marked in bold, states: The person you think is a legitimate tourist may be somebody else!

The advice is part of Project Griffin, a police initiative to ensure private security personnel function as their eyes and ears to combat crime and terrorism. Most police forces and several ports across the UK have co-opted the scheme.


7th March

 Offsite: Photography under Threat...

The shooting party's over

See article from


4th March

 Offsite: Police in Red...

More hassle for street photographers

See article from


1st March

Update: More Police Photographer Hassle...

Have all British police become complete arses?

A man who photographed police while he was on a trip to buy fish and chips was searched under the usual abuse of anti-terrorism powers.

Stephen Russell spotted police swarming Kidlington High Street and, as he had his camera with him, he took four photos because it was unusual to see so much action in the centre of the village.

An officer demanded the ex-RAF engineer deleted the photos, but Russell, refused because it is not illegal to photograph police in a public place.

One officer then searched him. A form handed to Russell after the incident reveals he was searched using powers under Section 43 of the Terrorism Act. This legislation gives officers the power to stop and search a suspect they reasonably suspect to be a terrorist .

Russell turned out his pockets and the officer used his bank card to carry out an identification and criminal records check. When the details came back clear, Russell demanded paperwork for the stop-and-search.

The form says Russell was stopped for taking pictures on High Street, Kidlington, of police. Refused all details. Not recognised by officers . It names Pc Steve Burchett as using Section 43 legislation to carry out the search.

Russell plans to submit a complaint to Thames Valley Police, and added: He used the Terrorism Act to search me. I'm not a terrorist.


24th January

Update: I am a Photographer, Not a Terrorist...

2000 protest against police abuse of terrorist powers

Photographers fed up with being stopped and searched by British police under the country's terrorism laws gathered in London to protest against the practice.

Waving placards with the message, I am a photographer, not a terrorist, about 2,000 photographers called for more leniency from the British police.

The slogan is the name of a group set up to campaign against certain sections of Britain's Terrorism Act 2000, which was designed to give police greater powers to fight terrorism.

Photographers say they have been unduly targeted by Section 44 of the Act, which allow officers to stop and search people, regardless of whether they have reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing.

We're coming together to show solidarity and to show that we won't be intimidated, said Jonathan Warren, a freelance photographer and one of the founders of the campaign group.

A small number of police watched the protest Saturday in London's Trafalgar Square, but they maintained a low profile.

Some protesters wore police costumes and badges identifying themselves as vigilance officers, amid frequent camera flashes. Mock freedom wardens also made their way through the crowd pretending to arrest photographers.


6th January

Offsite: Royal Camera Thieves...

If we are all under suspicion, then we are all threatened

People meekly accept official behaviour, even if they might strongly suspect it is the police who are behaving illegally

Even were I to live within walking distance of the Queen's Sandringham estate, it would never occur to me to spend any part of Christmas Day standing outside its church to take photographs of attendant members of the Royal Family. Yet, odd as such behaviour might seem – it's not as if the media don't produce film and pictures from the same event, saving everyone else the trouble – it is about as harmless as anything can be.

That, however, is not the view of the constabulary, which increasingly sees – or pretends to see – the most innocent acts as pregnant with potential criminality. I realise this attitude is inevitable in an organisation that daily encounters the bleakest aspects of human character, but traditionally the British police have managed this moral challenge without descending into obvious madness. Yet it was a peculiarly modern form of bureaucratic insanity, surely, which compelled the Norfolk Police officers in charge of this annual Christmas spectacle to confiscate the cameras of all the well-wishers lined up outside Sandringham church on Christmas Day.

...Read full article


30th December

Update: Hostile Police...

Police should stop treating photographers as terrorists

More than 350 photographers have issued a joint plea to end the hostile and humiliating use of anti-terror laws to prevent them taking pictures in public.

The professional and amateur photographers have signed a letter, published in The Sunday Telegraph, calling on ministers and the police halt the practice of them being stopped and searched while they are taking images in public places.

The letter, whose signatories include Rosemary Wilman, the president of the Royal Photographic Society, and the photographer and historian Professor John Hannavy, says:

As professional and amateur photographers, we are deeply concerned about the treatment of those taking pictures in public places. Photographers using equipment larger than a compact camera are frequently stopped and searched under anti-terrorist legislation, which they find humiliating.

We do not believe it likely that real terrorists would bother to set up a tripod or use a heavy single-lens reflex camera, as perfectly satisfactory pictures for their purposes could be taken on a discreet camera phone.

If our photography has an effect on law and order, it is beneficial, as wrongdoers are unlikely to commit crimes in close proximity to someone visibly holding a camera.

Meanwhile, some in the police, especially PCSOs, believe it is illegal to take any pictures of a police officer. This is because of ambiguous legislation, introduced earlier this year, which made it an imprisonable offence to collect information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism . Given the existence of Google Street View, we do not believe the legislation should be used against ordinary photographers.

In March, at a meeting with representatives of the Royal Photographic Society (RPS), the British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP) and Amateur Photographer, the Home Office agreed to issue guidelines to police forces spelling out that the law must not be misused against those engaged in legitimate photographic activity. This does not appear to have had the desired effect.

Rather than treat photographers as terrorists, the Government should amend the Anti-Terrorism Act to prevent its misuse and explain to police forces that a hostile attitude towards photographers is unwelcome.


19th December

 Offsite: Police Repression in Media Focus...

Keep policing by consent in the frame

See article from


18th December

Update: Police Terrorise Photographers...

Police are an offence against public order

Police community support officers (PCSOs) stopped Italian student Simona Bonomo under anti-terrorism legislation for filming buildings in London. Moments later, she was arrested by other officers, held in a police cell and fined.

An Italian student has described how she was stopped by police under anti-terrorist legislation while filming buildings, and later arrested, held in a police cell for five hours and given a fixed penalty notice.

Simona Bonomo, an art student at London Metropolitan University at London Metropolitan University, filmed the moment on 19 November when she was approached by two police community support officers (PCSOs) in Paddington, west London.

When Bonomo was challenged by one PCSO, she said she was filming just for fun . He replied: You like looking at those buildings do you? You're basically filming for fun? I don't believe you.

Bonomo then declined his request to see what she had filmed. I can have a look if I want to, if I think it may be linked to terrorism. This is an iconic site, he replied.

Bonomo then said she was an artist. You're an artist? Have you got any proof or any identification? he said. After accusing Bonomo of being cocky, the PCSO said she had been cycling the wrong way down a one-way street and threatened to fine her. After she apologised, the PCSOs departed, but returned moments later with about six police officers, she said.

She was searched and, after an altercation with one officer, was accused of being aggressive, bundled to the ground and arrested. The PCSOs were not involved in the arrest. After five hours in a police cell, Bonomo said she was told to sign an £80 fixed penalty fine for a public order offence. She plans to contest the penalty, which stipulated she caused harassment, alarm and distress in public.

Bonomo returned the next day to interview builders who had witnessed her arrest. Footage of the interviews appears to corroborate her account. I was disgusted, one said. They were terribly out of order. There was one officer who was spiteful to you.


12th December

Diary: Mass Photo Gathering...

Protest against the police targeting of photographers

Mass Photo Gathering
Saturday 23rd January 2010, Noon
Trafalgar Square, London

I'm a Photographer, Not a Terrorist! invite all Photographers to a mass photo gathering in defence of street photography.

Following a series of high profile detentions under s44 of the terrorism act including 7 armed police detaining an award winning architectural photographer in the City of London, the arrest of a press photographer covering campaigning santas at City Airport and the stop and search of a BBC photographer at St Pauls Cathedral and many others. PHNAT feels now is the time for a mass turnout of Photographers, professional and amateur to defend our rights and stop the abuse of the terror laws.

Offsite: Police snapper silliness reaches new heights

See article from by John Ozimek

The City of London's police decision to stop and quiz London Tonight reporter Marcus Powell, who was out with an ITN crew filming a story about Grant Smith's little contretemps with the boys in blue shows extreme dedication to the cause of foot-in-mouth policing.

According to a spokesman for City of London Police, Powell was initially asked whether he had a permit to film, and then on showing his press card was allowed to continue.

The real question now is: will police efforts to alienate the public and piss off press photographers continue into 2010. Early indications are that common sense should soon reassert itself and we will finally be able to stop reporting on the increasingly silly interactions that appear to take place on an almost daily basis between police and photographers.

Offsite: We're photographers, not terrorists

See article from by Marc Vallée

In August I wrote that the Home Office advice to police forces would be tested on the ground. It is clear that both the police and government have failed photographers as the abuse is still taking place. If the government is really serious about protecting public photography – and many photographers would doubt this – then the first place to start would be to scrap section 44 once and for all.

This is why I will be in Trafalgar Square at 12 noon on Saturday 23 January 2010 for the I'm a Photographer Not a terrorist! mass picture taking event along with hundreds of other photographers to exercise our democratic right to make a picture in a public place.


7th December

Update: Police with a Bad Image...

British police told to back off from abusing their powers by targeting photographers

Police forces across the country have been warned to stop using anti-terror laws to question and search innocent photographers after The Independent forced senior officers to admit that the controversial legislation is being widely misused.

The strongly worded warning was circulated by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) last night. In an email sent to the chief constables of England and Wales's 43 police forces, officers were advised that Section 44 powers should not be used unnecessarily against photographers. The message says: Officers and community support officers are reminded that we should not be stopping and searching people for taking photos. Unnecessarily restricting photography, whether from the casual tourist or professional, is unacceptable. Related articles

Chief Constable Andy Trotter, chairman of Acpo's media advisory group, took the decision to send the warning after growing criticism of the police's treatment of photographers.

Writing in today's Independent, he says: Everyone... has a right to take photographs and film in public places. Taking photographs... is not normally cause for suspicion and there are no powers prohibiting the taking of photographs, film or digital images in a public place.

He added: We need to make sure that our officers and Police Community Support Officers [PCSOs] are not unnecessarily targeting photographers just because they are going about their business. The last thing in the world we want to do is give photographers a hard time or alienate the public. We need the public to help us.

Photographers should be left alone to get on with what they are doing. If an officer is suspicious of them for some reason they can just go up to them and have a chat with them – use old-fashioned policing skills to be frank – rather than using these powers, which we don't want to over-use at all.

Section 44 of the Terrorism Act allows the police to stop and search anyone they want, without need for suspicion, in a designated area. The exact locations of many of these areas are kept secret from the public, but are thought to include every railway station in and well-known tourist landmarks thought to be at risk of terrorist attacks.

Many photographers have complained that officers are stopping them in the mistaken belief that the legislation prohibits photographs in those areas.

The abuse has resulted in nearly 100 complaints to the police watchdog. Since April 2008 every complaint made by a member of the public about the use of Section 44 powers, unlike other complaints, must be forwarded to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. In the past 18 months there have been 94 complaints. Eight of these specifically mentioned the fact that the issue arose around photography.

This is part of the message circulated by Andy Trotter, of the Association of Chief Police Officers, to police forces in England and Wales.

Officers and PCSOs are reminded that we should not be stopping and searching people for taking photos.

There are very clear rules around how stop-and-search powers can be used. However, there are no powers prohibiting the taking of photographs, film or digital images in a public place. Therefore members of the public and press should not be prevented from doing so.

We need to co-operate with the media and amateur photographers. They play a vital role as their images help us identify criminals.

We must acknowledge that citizen journalism is a feature of modern life and police officers are now photographed and filmed more than ever.

However, unnecessarily restricting photography, whether from the casual tourist or professional is unacceptable and worse still, it undermines public confidence in the police service.


4th December

Update: A Picture of a Police State...

British police abuse the photographing public

Police have been accused of misusing powers granted under anti-terror legislation after a series of incidents, ranging from the innocuous to the bizarre, in which photographers were questioned by officers for taking innocent pictures of tourist destinations, landmarks and even a fish and chip shop.

Police are allowed to stop and search anyone in a designated Section 44 authorisation zone without having to give a reason. But amateur and professional photographers have complained that they are frequently being stopped and treated as potential terrorists on a reconnaissance mission. Last night the Government's independent reviewer of anti-terrorism laws warned police forces to carefully examine how they use the controversial legislation.

Speaking to The Independent, Lord Carlile of Berriew said: The police have to be very careful about stopping people who are taking what I would call leisure photographs, and indeed professional photographers. The fact that someone is taking photographs is not prima facie a good reason for stop and search and is very far from raising suspicion. It is a matter of concern and the police will know that they have to look at this very carefully, he added.

Lord Carlile's comments come just days after a BBC journalist was stopped and searched by two police community support officers as he took photographs of St Paul's Cathedral. Days earlier Andrew White was stopped and asked to give his name and address after taking photographs of Christmas lights on his way to work in Brighton. And in July Alex Turner, an amateur photographer from Kent, was arrested after he took pictures of Mick's Plaice, a fish and chip shop in Chatham.

Most of those stopped are told they are being questioned under Section 44, a controversial power which allows senior officers to designate entire areas of their police force regions as stop-and-search zones. More than 100 exist in London alone, covering areas such as the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and other landmarks. Every train station in the UK is covered by a Section 44 order. But, due to the fear that the information could be used by terrorists to plan attacks, most of the the exact locations covered by Section 44 authorisations are kept secret, meaning members of the public have no idea if they are in one or not.


26th August

Update: Refining Risk...

Photography and shit policing comes to the attention of the Daily Mail

When trainspotter Stephen White noticed some interesting engines, he wasted no time in taking pictures of them for his collection.

It was the start of a bizarre sequence of events involving midnight phone calls, police raids and even, it is claimed, suspected terrorism.

White who was on a camping holiday in Wales with his sister Helen and her two children, was caught on CCTV from a nearby oil refinery as he took the photographs.
Stephen White with his sister Helen and her children Bryn and Jessica

Miss White's car number plate was also noted and police traced it to her home in Lincolnshire, where a neighbour gave them her mobile phone number.

An officer then phoned her in the early hours and demanded she take the photos to a police station despite her innocent explanation. Police swooped on the campsite the next day, and again demanded to take the photos.

But Mr White and his sister say they were so annoyed with the officers for not believing that they were not terrorists and for harassing them that they refused to hand over the snaps. The next day, they say, their car was pulled over by a police officer with his blue lights flashing. Again, he demanded the camera and pictures, but the family stood their ground.

Mr White said: We were treated and hunted as if we were terrorists and a threat to national security, which was ridiculous. This has totally ruined the holiday, just because I'm a bit of a train geek who took pictures of some engines.

'It's just an innocent photo - which you could find on Google Earth anyway. I've put a complaint in to the police already but they still won't let it rest.'

A spokesprat for Dyfed Powys Police confirmed that officers sought an explanation from Mr White regarding his activities following a report of suspicious behaviour at an oil refinery site in West Wales. Following an explanation from him, no further action was taken.


11th July

Update: A Snapshot of Rights...

Metropolitan Police issue guidance about public photography

The Metropolitan Police have issued guidance about public photography.

Guidance around the issue has been made clear to officers and PCSOs through briefings and internal communications.

The following advice is available to all officers and provides a summary of the Metropolitan Police Service's guidance around photography in public places.

Members of the public and the media do not need a permit to film or photograph in public places and police have no power to stop them filming or photographing incidents or police personnel.

Photography and Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000

The Terrorism Act 2000 does not prohibit people from taking photographs or digital images in an area where an authority under section 44 is in place.

Officers have the power to view digital images contained in mobile telephones or cameras carried by a person searched under S44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, provided that the viewing is to determine whether the images contained in the camera or mobile telephone are of a kind, which could be used in connection with terrorism. Officers also have the power to seize and retain any article found during the search which the officer reasonably suspects is intended to be used in connection with terrorism.

Photography and Section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000

Officers have the power to view digital images contained in mobile telephones or cameras carried by a person searched under S43 of the Terrorism Act 2000 to discover whether they have in their possession anything which may constitute evidence that they are involved in terrorism. Officers also have the power to seize and retain any article found during the search which the officer reasonably suspects may constitute evidence that the person is involved in terrorism.

Section 58a of the Terrorism Act 2000

Section 58a of the Terrorism Act 2000 covers the offence of eliciting, publishing or communicating information about members of the armed forces, intelligence services or police.

Any officer making an arrest for an offence under Section 58a must be able to demonstrate a reasonable suspicion that the information was of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

It should ordinarily be considered inappropriate to use Section 58a to arrest people photographing police officers in the course of normal policing activities, including protests, as without more, there is no link to terrorism.

There is however nothing preventing officers asking questions of an individual who appears to be taking photographs of someone who is or has been a member of Her Majesty's Forces (HMF), Intelligence Services or a constable.

Guidelines for MPS staff on dealing with media reporters, press photographers and television crews

Contact with photographers, reporters and television crews is a regular occurrence for many officers and staff. The media influences our reputation so it's crucial to maintain good working relations with its members, even in difficult circumstances.

Following these guidelines means both media and police can fulfil their duties without hindering each other.

Creating vantage points

When areas are cordoned off following an incident, creating a vantage point, if possible, where members of the media at the scene can see police activity, can help them do their job without interfering with a police operation. However, media may still report from areas accessible to the general public.


20th June

Update: A Snapshot of Abuse of Law...

Lord Carlile endorses popular view that police routinely abuse anti-terrorism powers

Thousands of people are being stopped and searched by the police under counter-terrorism powers simply to provide a racial balance in official statistics, the government's official anti-terror law watchdog has revealed.

Alex Carlile is the Government's appointed Independent Reviewer of terrorism legislation. He said in his annual report that he has got ample anecdotal evidence , adding that it was totally wrong and an invasion of civil liberties to stop and search people simply to racially balance the statistics: I can well understand the concerns of the police that they should be free from allegations of prejudice. But it is not a good use of precious resources if they waste them on self-evidently unmerited searches."

The official reviewer of counter-terrorist legislation said there was little or no evidence that the use of section 44 stop-and-search powers by the police can prevent an act of terrorism: Whilst arrests for other crime have followed searches under the section, none of the many thousands of searches has ever resulted in a conviction for a terrorism offence. Its utility has been questioned publicly and privately by senior Metropolitan police staff with wide experience of terrorism policing. He added that such searches were stopping between 8,000-10,000 people a month.

None of the many thousands of searches had ever led to a conviction for a terrorist offence, he said. He noted, too, that the damage done to community relations was undoubtedly considerable.

The Met has announced a review of how it uses section 44 powers. And the home secretary, Alan Johnson, is to issue fresh guidance to the police, warning that counter-terrorism must not be used to stop people taking photographs of on-duty officers.

Carlile uses his annual report to endorse complaints from professional and amateur photographers that counter-terror powers are being used to threaten prosecution if pictures are taken of officers on duty.

He said the power was only intended to cover images likely to be of use to a terrorist: It is inexcusable for police officers ever to use this provision to interfere with the rights of individuals to take photographs. The police had to come to terms with the increased scrutiny of their activities by the public, afforded by equipment such as video-enabled mobile phones. Police officers who use force or threaten force in this context run the real risk of being prosecuted themselves for one or more of several possible criminal and disciplinary offences, he warned.


5th June

 Offsite: Privacy and Street Photography...

Where does privacy begin

See article from


27th April

Update: Corrupting the Law...

Home Secretary confirms that police have no right to stop photographers unless there is a specific risk

House of Commons
26th April 2009

Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): Can I seek an assurance from my right hon. Friend that the circumstances that led to the photographs being taken in Downing street do not lead to further pressures on the rights of photographers, both professionals and amateurs, to take photographs in this country, especially as this event coincided with an incident in the past few days where somebody was allegedly challenged by a police officer for taking photographs of a bus garage? We need to learn lessons from the event and draw together the common-sense work being led by my hon. Friend the Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing to come up with the right code of practice to ensure that photographers can do their jobs and amateurs can take photographs with freedom.

Jacqui Smith: I strongly agree with my hon. Friend, who has met the Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing to discuss his concerns. I see no reason why the unfortunate events on 8 April should limit the ability of photographers to take photographs, and neither do I believe, as he knows, that some of the limits result from recent legislative changes that we have made, as has been suggested. There is more work that we can do to ensure that photographers are clear that their right to take photographs is protected in all cases where it is not causing a specific risk. That is certainly a right that my hon. Friend and I would uphold.

So presumably all the police officers so frequently preventing photographers from taking pictures are corrupting the law for their own convenience


19th April

Update: Police Hate Cameras...I Wonder Why?...

UK police force tourists to delete photos of London buses 'to stop terrorism'

No tourist trip to London is complete without a set of holiday snaps. But a father and son were forced to return home to Austria without their pictures after policemen deleted them from their camera - supposedly in a bid to prevent terrorism.

Klaus Matzka and his son, Loris from Vienna, were taking photographs of a double-decker bus in Walthamstow, north-east London, when two policemen approached them.

Austrian tourists Klaus and Loris Matzka were ordered to delete pictures of a London double decker in Walthamstow

The tourists were told it is strictly forbidden to take pictures of anything to do with public transport and their names, passport numbers and hotel address in London were noted.

Matzka was then forced to delete any holiday snaps that featured anything to do with transport.

The Metropolitan Police said it was investigating the allegations and had no knowledge of any ban on photographing public transport in London. [yeah yeah]. A spokeswoman added: It is not the police's intention to prevent tourists from taking photographs and we are looking into the allegations made.

Jenny Jones, a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority and a Green party member of the London assembly, said the incident was 'another example of the police completely overreaching the anti-terrorism powers'. She said she would raise the issue with the Met chief, Sir Paul Stephenson, as part of the discussion into police methods at the G20 protests, adding: I have already written to him about the police taking away cameras and stopping people taking photographs.


11th April

 Offsite: Zooming in on the Snapper-Stoppers...

Police making it up as they harass photographers

See article from


18th February

Update: Another Liberty Shuttered Up...

More police excuses to prohibit photography

Copper: What time is it please?
Protester: It's ten past three.
Copper: You're arrested for providing information useful to terrorists.

Hundreds of photographers protested outside Scotland Yard in London as a new law which they claim restricts their freedom came into force.

Under section 76 of the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008, illiciting, publishing or communicating information on members of the armed forces, intelligence services and police officers which is likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism will carry a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

Photographers fear police will use the law to prevent lawful pictures of protests being taken.

To mark the law, at least 300 photographers gathered outside Scotland Yard to exercise their democratic right – and take pictures.

The police officers present were repeatedly photographed, but took the protest in good spirit.

Some photographers wore masks and fancy dress, while others wore stickers that said: I am a photographer – not a terrorist.

David Hoffman, a photographer with 32 years' experience, said he now carries shinpads in his bag, claiming he had been kicked by police officers at protests. He said: They have been beautiful today, but it's the individual officer who's on his own at a back-street anti-fur protest. He's less accountable.

When I started, photographers were seen as representatives of the press, an important part of a public event. But over the last 30 years that has deteriorated. They're using the law as an excuse to stop photographers when, politically, they don't want coverage. Animal rights protests, peace marches, of course the poll tax – police are simply saying: We don't want this in the paper.

Marc Vallee, protest co-organiser and a photographer well-known for covering protests, said: This has been amazing. Photographers are fed up with the way they have been treated for the last few years. They are trying to do their job in a professional way and the counter-terrorism laws are being used against them. I have had colleagues that have come out of the tube station to cover a protest, with press card, and officers have come across and said: I'm stopping you under section 44 [stop and search powers].

What is that doing for press freedom?


13th January

Update: A Snapshot of Police Repression...

Results of petition to clarify the right to take photos in public places

The following petition to No 10 Downing Street has closed with 5792 signatures

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to clarify the laws surrounding photography in public places.

Statement from No 10 Downing Street:

There are no legal restrictions on photography in public places. However, the law applies to photographers as it does to anybody else in a public place. So there may be situations in which the taking of photographs may cause or lead to public order situations, inflame an already tense situation, or raise security considerations. Additionally, the police may require a person to move on in order to prevent a breach of the peace, to avoid a public order situation, or for the person’s own safety or welfare, or for the safety and welfare of others.

Each situation will be different and it would be an operational matter for the police officer concerned as to what action if any should be taken in respect of those taking photographs. Anybody with a concern about a specific incident should raise the matter with the Chief Constable of the relevant force.


9th January

Update: Path to a Police State...

UK MP stopped for taking pictures of cycle path

Conservative MP Andrew Pelling has said he was stopped and searched by police on suspicion of being a terrorist after taking photographs of a cycle path.

The MP for Central Croydon was stopped by police under trumped up anti-terrorism laws on December 30.

Despite him showing his House of Commons pass to the officers, they insisted on searching him after they found him taking photos of a cycle path in his area.

He told police that he was taking photos to highlight a long-neglected bicycle and pedestrian route, which had been of concern to his constituents and that he was intending on taking the photos to Parliament to illustrate the dangers posed by the protracted maintenance works.

But the two officers insisted on searching him after they told him they thought he was taking photos of East Croydon train station. They searched his bag, but after finding nothing of interest they sent the MP on his way.

A police spokeswoman said: An officer stopped and searched a man's bag in Cherry Orchard Road on December 30, under section 44 of the Terrorism Act. The officer conducted a stop-and-search, taking into account the current terror threat, as he was taking pictures in the vicinity of a major transport hub.


7th January

Update: Terrorised by Police...

Artists and photographers harassed by police

Reuben Powell is an unlikely terrorist. A white, middle-aged, middle-class artist, he has been photographing and drawing life around the capital's Elephant & Castle for 25 years.

With a studio near the 1960s shopping centre at the heart of this area in south London, he is a familiar figure and is regularly seen snapping and sketching the people and buildings around his home. But to the policemen who arrested him last week his photographing of the old HMSO print works close to the local police station posed an unacceptable security risk.

The car skidded to a halt like something out of Starsky & Hutch and this officer jumped out very dramatically and said 'what are you doing?' I told him I was photographing the building and he said he was going to search me under the Anti-Terrorism Act, he recalled.

For Powell, this brush with the law resulted in five hours in a cell after police seized the lock-blade knife he uses to sharpen his pencils. His release only came after the intervention of the local MP, Simon Hughes, but not before he was handcuffed and his genetic material stored permanently on the DNA database.

But Powell's experience is far from uncommon. Every week photographers wielding their cameras in public find themselves on the receiving end of warnings either by police, who stop them under the trumped up justification of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, or from over-eager officials who believe that photography in a public area is somehow against the law.

Groups from journalists to trainspotters have found themselves on the receiving end of this unwanted attention, with many photographers now fearing that their job or hobby could be under threat.

Yet, according to the Association of Chief Police Officers, the law is straightforward. Police officers may not prevent someone from taking a photograph in public unless they suspect criminal or terrorist intent. Their powers are strictly regulated by law and once an image has been recorded, the police have no power to delete or confiscate it without a court order. This applies equally to members of the media seeking to record images, who do not need a permit to photograph or film in public places, a spokeswoman said.

But still the harassment goes on. Philip Haigh, the business editor of Rail magazine, said the bullying of enthusiasts on railway platforms has become an unwelcome fact of life in Britain: It is a problem that doesn't ever seem to go away. We get complaints from railway photographers all the time that they are told to stop what they are doing, mainly by railway staff but also by the police. It usually results in an apologetic letter from a rail company .


6th January

Update Spotting a Police State...

UK trainspotters harassed by police

UK Police are using draconian anti-terrorism powers against trainspotters, it has emerged.

Enthusiasts innocently taking photographs of carriages and noting serial numbers have ludicrously been accused of behaving like a reconnaissance unit for a terror cell.

The Prevention of Terrorism Act 2000 has been used to stop a staggering 62,584 people at railway stations. Another 87,000 were questioned under separate stop and search and stop and account legislation.

The figures were uncovered by Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Norman Baker, who warned that Britain was sliding towards a police state. While it is important to be vigilant about the threat of terrorism to the transport network, the sheer scale of the number of people stopped by police on railway property is ridiculous.

The anti-terror laws allow officers to stop people for taking photographs and I know this has led to innocent trainspotters being stopped. This is an abuse of anti-terrorism powers and a worrying sign that we are sliding towards a police state.


21st December

Update: Snapshot of a Police State...

Government clarifies police powers to stop people taking photos

In a letter to the National Union of Journalists, the Minister for security and counter-terrorism, Vernon Kay, clarified that the police may stop photographers taking pictures or videos when the taking of photographs may cause or lead to public order situations or inflame an already tense situation or raise security considerations. The Police have already been using heightened security tensions and their powers under the Terrorism Act to remove and harass people documenting political demonstrations, which was the cause of the dialogue with the NUJ.

This signifies the Home Office coming clean and admitting from now on the Police will have ability to remove anyone at all with a camera - all the police have to do is declare, possibly not even publicly, that there are special circumstances:

Additionally, the police may require a person to move on in order to prevent a breach of the peace or to avoid a public order situation or for the person's own safety and welfare or for the safety and welfare of others.

This means if you witnessed the police bundling someone into the back of a van and decided to film it on your camera phone, you would be breaking the law. If a professional journalist did so, they would also be breaking the law.


7th December

 Offsite: The War on Photographers...

Police Rules of engagement

See article from


26th November

Update: A Snapshot of a Police State...

More photographers under duress

A couple of weeks ago a 15-year old schoolboy on a geography field trip was stopped by police under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act for taking a photograph of Wimbledon train station as part of his of GCSE course.

Community Support Officers forced him to give his details and sign a form or face arrest (legal note: You do not have to give your details under and stop and search, despite what lies the police will say and never sign any police notes).

Last week the police stopped four students from Kingston University from filming an interview with the anti-war Parliament Square protesters as part of their MA in Film Making. The police approached the students and told them they would need a permit from the Council to film. Brian Haw from the Parliament Square peace camp filmed this incident, but the police curiously didn't stop him from filming! Later the students returned with a letter from the University course director explaining their work and that it was not for commercial purposes and the students were covered by the University's insurance. But police would still not let the students film and when challenged refused to check with superiors.


21st October

Update: Government less than Candid about Photography...

Police rules over public photography to be revised in November

Written answers Tuesday, 14 October 2008 Home Department Terrorism: Stop and Search

Dominic Grieve (Shadow Attorney General, Law Officers; Beaconsfield, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what guidance her Department has given to the police on the exercise of their power under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 to stop and search those taking photographs in public places.

Jacqui Smith (Home Secretary; Redditch, Labour)


Following a commitment given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in October 2007, the operational guidance issued to the police on section 44 is currently being reviewed by the Home Office, the police, community groups and other stakeholders. The National Police Improvement Agency will issue revised guidance to all police forces in November. This will cover the taking of photographs in public places, although the general position is that there is no legal restriction on photography in such places.


23rd August

Update: A Snapshot of Stasi Britain...

Wrongful arrest as photographer snaps police van ignoring one way signs

Have you got a licence for that camera?

When Andrew Carter saw a police van ignore no-entry signs to reverse up a one-way street to reach a chip shop, he was understandably moved to protest to the driver.

But his complaint brought a volley of abuse from PC Aqil Farooq. And when Mr Carter took a picture of the van then tried to photograph the officer, PC Farooq rushed out of the shop and knocked his camera to the ground.

Carter was then arrested and bundled into the van over claims he had 'assaulted' an officer with his camera, resisted arrest and was drunk and disorderly.

He was held in a police cell for five hours before being released on bail at midnight. Carter was never charged with any offence.

Carter lodged a complaint and has since received a personal apology from PC Farooq and Rob Beckley, deputy chief constable of Avon and Somerset Constabulary. The force refused to comment on the case, except to say that the disciplinary process was resolved to Carter's 'satisfaction'.


9th August

Photography = Terrorism...

Police abuse of the Terrorism Act 2000

Have you got a licence for that camera?

A man was labelled a terrorist after he took a picture of a police car parked at a bus stop.

David Gates found himself being questioned under the Terrorism Act after he spotted the BMW in the middle of the box reserved for buses, and decided to capture the image on his phone – apparently falling foul of the anti-terror law in the process.

Gates was then questioned by two officers who asked why he had snapped the picture of their vehicle, and they told him he was being quizzed under the Terrorism Act 2000 because the picture could pose a security risk.

They also said this law gave them the right to use stop-and-search powers.

He said: I explained I'd taken the picture as their car was parked illegally, and taking a photograph in public was not illegal. I told them I thought using the Terrorism Act and suspecting me of being a terrorist was ridiculous.

Gates said he co-operated with the officers and gave his details, which were checked. He was told the record of the incident would be kept on file for a year.

Mike Hancock, the Lib Dem MP for Portsmouth South, said: 'The whole thing is quite bizarre. I don't have a problem with them parking at the bus stop, but I do have a problem with them using this legislation for something trivial like this and keeping it for a year.

Superintendent Neil Sherrington, the deputy commander for Portsmouth police, said: Officers are given powers under the Terrorism Act to stop and search. The act states that "this power can only be used for the purposes of searching for articles of a kind which could be used in connection with terrorism, and may be exercised whether or not the constable has grounds for suspecting the presence of articles of that kind".


4th August

No Photography: An Unwritten Law...

Since when did trying to have your photograph taken constitute a threat to national security?

Have you got a licence for that camera?

Photographic Privacy International's fated struggle to stop the Google spy car stalking this country's streets has reminded me of my own brush with London's photography police recently.

I was being photographed in Covent Garden. As I followed the photographer's instructions and tried to come up with a smile that would get people running to the nearest shop to buy my book, a security guard on patrol around the piazza walked up and stood between the photographer and me. The guard was quite a determined professional; he put one hand in front of the camera lens and muttered darkly into his walkie-talkie.

Why would a potential terrorist (or people exhibiting suspect behaviour, as the Met likes to describe them in its anti-terror publicity) pose in front of an organic cosmetics stall and religiously follow the instructions of a white, female professional photographer who looked nothing if not an infidel? The photographer tried to test the resolve of the security guard by stepping out of the covered area and making me pose in front of a column. But the guard followed and covered the lens again; he looked like a man with a mission to save London from desperate debut writers and their collaborators in the photographic professions.

In the ensuing hour we were chased away from Nehru's bust outside the Indian High Commission, and Citibank. Even the folks at Australia House descended on us after we had set up the tripod, I had perfected my writerly pose and we were only waiting for the clouds to part.

Update: Unlicensed Hoax

Thanks to Andrea, 18th August 2008, see article from The Register

The following apology was printed in the Guardian's Corrections and clarifications column, Saturday August 2 2008

Contrary to a statement we made in the column below, the Metropolitan Police do not require professional photographers operating in central London to hold a police permit and wear a radio-linked ID tag. The material on which this part of the column was based was a hoax. This has been corrected. We apologise for its use.

This referred to a section of the Guardian article:

The photographer, very bitter by now, told me that the police treat anyone with professional photography equipment as a suspect. According to the professional group Editorial Photographer UK, if you want to take pictures in central London you have to apply for a permit at Charing Cross police station. The approval can take up to 28 days. Then, as a part of Photo Safety Identity Checking Observation you are required to wear "a thin fluorescent waistcoat" kitted with radio frequency identification (RFID) tag. The Met has assured the photographers that RFID is a cheap and "passive device that needs no batteries".

A spokesperson for the Met told the photographers' group earlier this year that cameras are potentially more dangerous than guns.


23rd July

An Assault on Photography...

Police making it up as they go along about banning photography

A householder who took photographs of hooded teenagers as evidence of their anti-social behaviour says he was told he was breaking the law after they called the police.

David Green left his London flat to take photographs of the gang, who were aged around 17, he said one threatened to kill him while another called the police on his mobile.

And he claimed that a Police Community Support Officer sent to the scene promptly issued a warning that taking pictures of youths without permission was illegal, and could lead to a charge of assault.

Green, a television cameraman, said he was appalled that the legal system's first priority seemed not to be stopping frightening anti-social behaviour by aggressive youths, but protecting them from being photographed by the concerned public.


8th July

A Snapshot of a Police State...

Police can make it up as they go along about banning photography

Have you got a licence for that camera?

Photographic Surveillance in public can be, and is, used deliberately as a legal harassment technique, both by Police and sometimes by their opponents.

According to the British Journal of Photography (BJP), the General Secretary of the the National Union of Journalists, Jeremy Dear, wrote a letter to the Home Secretary, complaining about such harassment, even of Press Card accredited journalists and press photographers.

It seems that the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has replied, with even more evidence that Britain is a "surveillance society", where basic freedoms are being curtailed, not just through the law, but by administrative policies.

Local restrictions on photography in public places are legitimate the Home Secretary has stated in a letter to the National Union of Journalists. While Jacqui Smith reaffirmed that there are no legal restrictions, she added that local Chief Constables were allowed to restrict or monitor photography in certain circumstances.

First of all, may I take this opportunity to state that the Government greatly values the importance of the freedom of the press, and as such there is no legal restriction on photography in public places, Smith writes. Also, as you will be aware, there is no presumption of privacy for individuals in a public place.

However, the Home Secretary adds that local restrictions might be enforced. Decisions may be made locally to restrict or monitor photography in reasonable circumstances. That is an operational decision for the officers involved based on the individual circumstances of each situation.

It is for the local Chief Constable, in the case of your letter the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Force, to decide how his or her Officers and employees should best balance the rights to freedom of the press, freedom of expression and the need for public protection.


13th June

Camera and an Arabic Ringtone...

Suspicion enough for arrest and being locked up for 2 days

Have you got a licence for that camera?

Two asylum seekers were arrested under the Terrorism Act and quizzed for 44 hours after filming themselves in a park.

The Iraqi pair, who had been in Wales for just two months, were using a camcorder in Bute Park, Cardiff, when an undercover cop swooped.

He asked the men, both 20, what they were doing before one of their mobile phones went off with an Arabic music ringtone.

According to the Iraqis’ solicitor Hanif Bhamjee, the cop then radioed for back-up.

Minutes later uniformed and plain-clothes officers arrived in the popular park, which was packed with tourists and city residents soaking up the sunshine.

The pair, who speak little English, were formally arrested under the Terrorism Act for what police last night claimed was “a suspicious incident”.

Bhamjee said the terrified asylum seekers, who fled sectarian violence in their war-ravaged country, were asked a series of questions during hour after hour of gruelling interviews.

The lawyer, of Cardiff-based Crowley and Co, added: There were 40 detectives involved. They raided their houses like they were looking for explosives. These poor people didn’t know what the hell was happening. They were very shaken – they didn’t know what had hit them so they were panicking. It’s outrageous, the police response was well over the top. If they had made any elementary inquiries they would have realised these kids were nothing to worry about.

Assistant Chief Constable David Morris, of South Wales Police, said: Two men were arrested on Wednesday under anti-terrorism legislation, following reports they were acting suspiciously in the centre of Cardiff.

Both men were detained while enquiries were undertaken to establish their backgrounds. Once we were satisfied they posed no threat to the safety of the public, they were released from custody and no further action was taken.


12th June

 Offsite: Terrorised by Hollywood...

Are photographers really a threat?

See article from


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