Police Powers

Much has been made of the new terrorism laws in the UK and their use in preventing photojournalists and even tourists from taking photographs, so it's a breath of fresh air to read this notice being circulated. If you plan to take photographs in the UK, it might be a good idea to carry a copy of this notice around with you. Importantly it states that the police have no power to delete images or destroy film and have no power to prevent you from taking pictures unless they suspect you of being a terrorist. Of course, they police are often a suspicious bunch by nature, but at least they have some official definitions of a terrorist and this notice will help you defend your position as a tourist/journalist/artist/not a terrorist...

Much respect goes out to the British Journal of Photography and the NUJ for championing photographers rights in this regard. Good work, keep it up.


2 comments:

Kim said...

Reading the notice, I would like to read their definition of 'public space' and authorised area'? Is that stated in legal terms anywhere? That will be a very important point of discussion I guess. And what about standing in an obvious public space, but aiming the lens at a non-public space object? How far does a photographer have to go to prove he/she is not photographing a police station out of terrorist but artistic motives, I wonder? So should it be about the position or the target of the photographer... This still leaves many questions unanswered and a lot of room for interpretation, and therefore for the restrictions of photography in public space in GB.

Tom White said...

Restricted areas are usually clearly signposted and defined - or at least they should be. Everywhere else is either private property or public space. There are legal definitions and applications of these terms. As for standing in a public space and photographing a non public space, that is legally allowed, or at least it was last time I read the law. I agree that the definitions regarding police suspicion of terrorism in relation to photographers is still pretty wide open but at least we have here some clear legal guidelines prohibiting actions that the police have recently been accused of while dealing with photographers and photojournalists. Working press photographers should carry press credentials wherever possible, which should be enough to at least ease the suspicion of police officers and give them an opportunity to verify the photographers claim that he/she is not a terrorist (though really, common sense should be a prevailing factor here). This is currently the frontline of the legal battlefield in this case - photojournalists versus the police - and it is the problems between these two professions that this notice seeks to address.