The Metropolitan Police has issued new advice to its officers about photographers and what coppers can and cannot do. It’s interesting stuff and its content may come as a surprise to the seemingly photographer phobic Kent Police. The Register reports on the advice (thanks to them for highlighting this) and I’m happy to quote from the advice should any member of English law enforcement be reading:
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.
That’s pretty clear. Now let’s look at some snippets regarding so-called “anti terror” legislation
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 do not have the power to delete digital images or destroy film at any point during a search.
Again, pretty clear stuff. Of course, Plod might decide to reinterpret what he believes constitute terrorism. Section 43 of the Terrorism Act is a little different.
Officers have the power to stop and search a person who they reasonably suspect to be a terrorist. The purpose of the stop and search is to discover whether that person has in their possession anything which may constitute evidence that they are a terrorist.
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 the images constitute evidence that the person is 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 a terrorist. This includes any mobile telephone or camera containing such evidence.
Officers do not have the power to delete digital images or destroy film at any point during a search
On Section 58 of The Terrorism Act
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.
On that last paragraph I would say strongly that anyone who asks me about photos I am taking should conduct themselves with due politeness and respect or they will get a polite but very firm rejection.
I recommend that all photographers print out that advice and keep it with them to show any police officer or PCSO whose understanding of the law isn’t as good as it should be.