15 January, 2009

Police abuse anti-terror laws to detain innocent photographers

This is starting to get really rather annoying, more stories of photographers being criminalised by police who are blatantly abusing anti-terror legislation, even going so far as to lock some photographers up (although not for terribly long, admittedly)...! 

I've only had one brush with the authorities personally, which was when I was through customs and approaching my gate at Gatwick airport, I took a very quick snap of the doorway and ramp to the plane (on a small point and shoot) and then got surrounded by officials demanding that I actually delete the picture from my camera...not really having a leg to stand on (as they could detain me or stop me getting on my flight), I yielded and wiped the shot (but not all the others I had taken in the airport ;) and was allowed to proceed, but hearing the Association of Chief Police Officers saying "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 makes me a little angry, as they obviously used their position to bully me into doing something even a police officer has no right to do without lawyers locking horns before a wigged gentleman...

However, it looks like we are (while not actually having a list of defined rights at the moment) at least starting to be able to guess where the invisible line is drawn...and about time too...

Now if someone could just tell all the police officers what their own Chiefs think about the matter we can all get on with our enjoyable, harmless hobby (or full-time job as the case may be)...

7 comments:

Ys said...

I've always been a great supporter of the police but these last few years I've really seen them taking advantage of their powers and just basically doing things because they know no one will stop them. I'm sure it never used to be like this.

¨°º©[ Fink ]©º°¨ said...

Actually, on that note, over Christmas I read a book called "Girl in Blue" by Anne Ramsay (got it out from the library), it's an autobiographical whistleblower (non-fiction) piece about her 14 years in the Police in Scotland...very, very good read!

Good article about it here...

Kev Brown said...

This really annoys me as well! Last year in our local newspaper, there was a story saying that people were banned from taking photo's inside the new St Stephens shopping development in our city center, because of these anti terror laws! What's to stop a terrorist pretending to talk on his mobile phone, but actually use it to take photo's?

Sarah said...

I really hope that people realise that not all police officers are the same. Like anything, there are some crap ones, some dodgy ones, but they are a minority. Most are decent people doing a job and they really don't need to be painted as racist bullies because it's not fair, or accurate. Sorry to rant, but this is a sensitive one for me.

¨°º©[ Fink ]©º°¨ said...

It's the same with anything, you get goodies and baddies in all aspects of life...I have nothing but respect for people who want (and are skilled enough) to be Police officers, equally I like the work of a lot of photographers, but I think the Paparazzi are in the wrong (with their hounding/trespassing ways)...that's not my problem - and I'm really sorry if I came across as anti-Police (that wasn't my intention at all, in fact, my experience wasn't even with Police officers, it was with airport security...

My real problem is the fact that what we have here is a big grey area.

In the USA it's simple, photographers have clearly defined *rights* - that doesn't exist here - so we are all (be you photographer, police or security guard) a little unsure of how we should be behaving...

A photographers first instinct is to shoot, and sometimes the first instinct of a concerned official (having had public safety drilled into them, no doubt) will be to suspect the photographer of wrong-doing...but no-one is really sure where the line is drawn...

Yes, my pictures of the airport could have been found and used by terrorists, but that's true of pretty much all photography of places where a lot of people go...I don't mind not shooting in reasonably sensitive places, I just need everyone to be on the same page with regards to exactly where and when it is inappropriate to be wielding a camera, and just now it's completely open to individual interpretation (which isn't really good enough)...and probably just as frustrating and difficult for those people responsible for law and order and public safety as it is for those who task themselves with documenting the world we live in...

Sarah said...

Thanks Fink, you didn't really. It was more the comments from others and then the link to that book that upset me. But freedom of speech is a wonderful thing and I respect everyone's right to an opinion. Thanks and have a great weekend :-)

Anonymous said...

Now, I am a photographer and I understand the objections of private owners of buildings to taking photographs..i.e. shopping centres etc. I was stopped form taking photos in a shopping centre in Lithuania so it is not just in Britain.We wouldn't like a stranger taking pics in our house without our permission.
What I do strongly object to is the right to take photographs in a public place being taken from me. The right to photograph security forces (they work for us we don't work for them)being taken away yet they can photograph us.The right I have to be innocent until proven guilty being taken away. The right to my privacy as an individual being taken from me.
The Police constantly abuse the law and have one for them and one for another.