Everyone Has a Right to Take Photographs in Public Places (U.K.)!

Eye of the WolfIn response to recent events between the U.K. police and photographers, Andy Trotter of the Association of Chief Police Officers sent an advisory to police forces in England and Wales via email:

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.

Read more about the  warning on The Independent, the background on the harassment on a BBC blog, and a statement by the Metropolitan Police (AKA “Scotland Yard”) regarding legal public photography, which includes the following:

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.

Photographers working in the UK should review and carry a copy of this statement with them.

Congrats to the U.K. police on making steps to improve how they deal with photographers.  Unfortunately, incidents still occur.  Check this recent story on boingboing.net.  The key may have been for the photographer to explain what he was doing earlier in the process.

Thanks to Michael Beasley for this blog entry.

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