My brother was walking through his home town early on Armistice Sunday taking pictures of buildings and streets scenes from public roads and paths, testing his new Olympus OMD EM-1, when a small Police van drew up alongside him and an officer got out. My brother was asked what he was doing (I think the camera should have been a clue) to which my brother told the officer he was just taking pictures around the town. The officer then asked to see the pictures he had taken. When he was asked why the policeman said it was for the prevention of terrorism. My brother showed him the images on his camera, after which the officer got in his van and went without another word.
So, once again a photographer has been victimized for no reason. For goodness sake, if they wanted, surely terrorists could get all the information on streets from Google and I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t be using a conspicuous DSLR if they were taking pictures.
This made my blood boil. It ruined my brother’s shoot (he immediately went home) and it was another example of the lack of freedom in the so-called mother of democracies. So I decided to have another look at the law, to refresh my rights.
Photographers Rights with Police
- Stop and search you if they reasonably suspect you to be a terrorist under Section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
- View images on the camera you’re carrying if you’re being searched under Section 43.
- Seize and retain your camera if the police officer reasonably suspects that it may contain evidence that you are a terrorist.
- Question you if you appear to be taking photos of a member of the police force, armed forces or intelligence services.
- Arrest you for taking pictures of the police, armed forces or intelligence services under Section 58A of the Terrorism Act 2000, if they have a reasonable suspicion that the ‘information’ is designed to provide assistance to a person committing or planning an act of terrorism.
- Stop and search you under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (which doesn’t require any suspicion of an offence having been committed).
- Prevent you taking pictures on the public highway (although you could be charged with obstruction or a public order offence – breach of the peace, for example).
- Delete or ask you to delete digital images at any point during a search under Section 43 (although they can do this following seizure if there is a court order or similar that permits it).
- Arrest you for photographing police officers involved in the course of normal police duties and incidents (unless they have a reasonable suspicion that the pictures will be used for assisting terrorist activities).
Photographers Rights with Security Guards
Security guards can…
- Ask you to stop taking photographs if you’re standing on private land without permission or a permit.
- Use ‘reasonable force’ to remove you from private property if necessary.
Security guards can’t…
- Prevent you taking pictures of private property if you’re standing on public land.
- Take your camera equipment.
- Look at your photographs.
- Delete, or force you to delete, any of your shots.
So, as I read it in my brother’s case the inference was that because he was asked to let the policeman look at the images on the camera, he was being treating as a suspect under section 43. If this was the case then surely he should have been told that what was happening and an official stop and search report made by the officer.
Be aware though that teh Police can obviously make things awkward for you if they wish and also detain you under the pretext of checking your details. From what I’ve read, this time of detention for bona fide photographers picked up by our guardians of liberty has varied from 1 to 5 hours. It’s also probably best not to question an officer’s intentions on your own as the courts are more likely to believe the police if a complaint develops. You need witnesses. In this circumstance, my brother, I believe, acted sensibly.
I think it is ironic that the possible reason for the terrorism check was that the memorial parade was happening that day. Considering that those servicemen and women celebrated in the parade gave their lives for freedom, it all sucks. By curtailing and stepping on our rights, the government has given the terrorists a victory by proxy