Monday 22 February 2010

Police Use Armory Of Laws Against Photographer

After a series of embarrassing incidents involving the use of section 44 stop & search powers under the Terrorism Act 2000, including the arrest of a press photographer covering climate change activists at London City Airport and the stop and search of a BBC photographer at St Pauls Cathedral, the head of ACPO Media Advisory Group Andrew Trotter issued guidance to police forces around the country in December 2009, which stated:

Officers should be reminded that it is not an offence for a member of the public or journalist to take photographs of a public building and use of cameras by the public does not ordinarily permit use of stop and search powers.

Within days of this 'clarification', armed police detaining an architectural photographer in the City of London and the message also seems to have gone unheeded in Lancashire. The Guardian reported today on the experience of Bob Patefield, an amateur photographer who along with a friend was stopped three times in Accrington under section 44 and eventually arrested for 'antisocial behaviour', using powers under section 50 of the Police Reform Act 2002. He was held for eight hours.

Lancashire police claim that members of the public were "concerned about the way in which [Patefield] was using his camera," but it seems apparent that the photographer was targeted for knowing his rights and choosing to exercise them. Having failed to get what they wanted under one piece of legislation, they simply picked another - as if the law is a armory of weapons against the public that can be dipped into whenever police officers want to get their own way.

This is from 2008 but involves Police Community Support Officers acting with staggering arrogance:

UPDATE: 24 February

Another incident, this time in Kidlington, Oxfordshire:

Stephen Russell, 59, spotted police swarming Kidlington High Street and, as he had his camera with him, he took four photos because it was unusual to see so much action in the centre of the village.

An officer demanded the ex-RAF engineer deleted the photos, but Mr Russell, of Thrupp, refused because it is not illegal to photograph police in a public place.

One officer then searched him. A form handed to Mr Russell after the incident reveals he was searched using powers under Section 43 of the Terrorism Act.

This legislation gives officers the power to stop and search a suspect ‘they reasonably suspect to be a terrorist’.

Mr Russell said: “They told me to delete the photos and I said ‘no’.

“It is not illegal and he should have known it is not illegal.

“There was nothing wrong with taking photos of police in the street but he would not listen. I thought if I tried to stop him it could turn nasty.”


Anonymous said...

I have contacted John McDonnell's office to ask whether (he's agreed btw) he can ask parliamentary questions about the use of Sec 44 on photographers (how many are stopped) and how many are charged with criminal activity/terrorism. Be interesting what the response will be.

Kevin said...

Fantastic! Let me know the outcome.


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