A quite brilliant but horrific experiment, as part of the London Street Photography Festival. This is what happens when you give small people a small amount of power, but it ties in to the increasing privatisation or perceived privatisation of public space.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) just keeps letting them get away with it:
The investigation found that an off-duty Police Community Support Officer (PCSO), who was on his way to work, saw the man filming on the DLR on two consecutive days. On the second day, 29 July 2009, he telephoned the Safer Transport Team at Woolwich police station to report what he had seen. The Police Constable (PC) who answered the call went to the scene. In interview, he explained that, based on the information given to him by the PCSO, he had suspicions that the man may be involved in terrorist activity, undertaking hostile reconnaissance. He therefore decided to stop and search him.
The IPCC believes that the officer had a justified reason to stop and search the man.
The PCSO checked the footage on the man’s mobile phones. It contained planes taking off, more planes at London City Airport and the airport’s runway as well as footage taken on the DLR. The PC found some USB computer memory sticks and a CD in his bag. The PC remained suspicious and sought advice from the Counter Terrorism Command (CTC) of the Metropolitan Police Service.
Again, the IPCC understands why the PC was suspicious and believes seeking guidance from a specialist unit was a sensible way to proceed.
The CTC instructed the officer not to arrest the man, but to ask for his consent to being photographed and ask him to face CCTV cameras. He was instructed to seize mobile phones and computer equipment to be examined by experts from the Counter Terrorism Command. An officer from the CTC then contacted CCTV Operators at Woolwich Police Station and requested they record what was happening. The man agreed to be photographed and cooperated fully when his property was seized. Intelligence checks were carried out, but no prior intelligence was found.
Just anyone could be a terrorist. Anyone. The police are convinced of it. I can’t help but remember the time I was stopped by the Met in Tower Hamlets whilst entirely lawfully photographing the Canary Wharf towers. After the officer who took my name and checked my details took me to one side and admitted they’d only stopped me to balance out the racial stop and search figures, he actually encouraged me to go to City Airport and photograph the planes taking off and landing. From this IPCC report they’d then have had cause to treat me as a terrorist suspect and seize my equipment (just as I suspected at the time).
The Woolwich Foot Tunnel is a public space, managed by Greenwich Local Council, and is nearly 100 years old. Its entire purpose is for pedestrians to walk from one side of the river to the other, but imagine my surprise when I went down in the lift with my camera, to be questioned by the lift operator as to my intentions. He said (with no real pride) I needed the permission of the local council to take photographs in the tunnel, and true enough here’s their blurb:
Photography is banned in both the Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels. Flash photography can trigger adverse effects to those who suffer from epilepsy and related medical conditions.
Commercial photography and fiming may take place in the tunnels subject to obtaining the appropiate licence from the Greenwich Film Unit.
They have ‘banned’ photography in the tunnels because they don’t want to get sued on the off chance that a pedestrian has an epileptic fit from a flash? First off it’s pointless taking photos of the tunnel with a flash – all the mood comes from taking photos in those tunnels without a flash (which I confirmed I would do, to his satisfaction). But have we really come to a stage in civil society where photographers need the permission of local government to take pictures in public spaces on health & safety grounds? I dare the council to reply, showing any evidence of the dangers of flash photography, collated anywhere in the world, to justify such a ban.
I took this photo without the permission of Greenwich Council. The lift operator said the reason for the ban was the Council’s fears of photos being used in a manner derogatory to them. Ironic really.
The Metropolitan Police has continued its harassment of 15 year old photographer Jules Mattsson:
BJP understands Mattsson was detained today under Section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000 in Central London, near Buckingham Palace, after taking photos of cadets. Mattsson had received approval from the cadets’ supervisors as he was shooting images for the cadets’ website, BJP has been told.
BJP also understands that the photographer was searched and his details recorded.
The incident comes less than two weeks after the same photographer was stopped and detained by police officers claiming he represented a terrorism risk.
A 15 year old photographer getting stopped twice in two weeks is insane. What’s even more insane is the reason:
Section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000 requires reasonable suspicion that a person is a terrorist. Its usage is more limited than Section 44, which doesn’t require suspicion. However, the European Court of Human Rights recently found Section 44 to be illegal.
The act’s Section 43 reads: “A constable may stop and search a person whom he reasonably suspects to be a terrorist to discover whether he has in his possession anything which may constitute evidence that he is a terrorist.”
Unfathomable. After the Section 44 ruling it’s hardly surprising that they should change their tactics, but to suggest Jules is a terrorist is just plain bananas. Proof yet again that the police’s institutional prejudice against photographers will use any means necessary to get expressed. The Home Office may have become more liberal under the ConDemNation coalition when it comes to asylum, but they still don’t have the Metropolitan Police under control. Will anyone ever?
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has asked us to tell him what laws need repealing:
He’s a brave man, I’ll give him that. But the answers are there in front of his face. Let’s start with the case of Jules Mattson:
On Saturday 26 June, photojournalist Jules Mattsson, who is a minor and was documenting the Armed Forces Day parade in Romford, was questioned and detained by a police officer after taking a photo of young cadets.
According to Mattsson, who spoke to BJP this morning, after taking the photo he was told by a police officer that he would need parental permission for his image. The photographer answered that, legally, he didn’t. While he tried to leave the scene to continue shooting, a second officer allegedly grabbed his arm to question him further.
According an audio recording of the incident, the police officer argued, at first, that it was illegal to take photographs of children, before adding that it was illegal to take images of army members, and, finally, of police officers. When asked under what legislation powers he was being stopped, the police officer said that Mattsson presented a threat under anti-terrorism laws. The photographer was pushed down on stairs and detained until the end of the parade and after the intervention of three other photographers.
Now I know Jules. He’s a good kid and a superb, passionate photographer, and this is is just appalling. Want proof? He recorded it:
The debate about the Metropolitan (and City) Police’s abuse of Section 44 has been waged many times and the arguments have been made more times than I can be bothered to think. But it’s now, once and for all, conclusively been ruled in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights:
In January 2010 the European Court held that section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (the broad police power to stop and search without suspicion) violates the right to respect for private life guaranteed by Article 8 of the Convention on Human Rights (Gillan and Quinton v. UK4158/05  ECHR 28 (12 January 2010)). The claimants received £500 each by way of compensation.
The European Court has now rejected the UK’s application to appeal to the court’s Grand Chamber, meaning that the decision is final. This leaves stop and search powers in further disarray. The Home Secretary has already announced an “urgent review” of the powers after the recent admission by the Home Office that thousands of individual searches had been conducted illegally.
It’s clear that Section 44 has to go, but the risk remains that Clegg uses this scheme either to get the country to vent about laws they don’t like, or simply to delete specific laws without confronting the trends and behaviours which led to them in the first place. The cops who attacked Jules Mattson didn’t just cite Section 44 to try to stop him taking perfectly lawful photos – they made all sorts of garbage up in order to intimidate him into not taking photos. There is an institutional prejudice within the ranks against photographers, which was channelled by Section 44, and which would be much harder to root out and stop. New Labour made it abundantly clear they didn’t care one iota about the Met’s excesses. Time will tell if Theresa May cares any more, and this is what I want Nick Clegg to understand and tackle, more than anything.
Two days ago I cross-posted that photographer Grant Smith had yet again been abused by police under Section 44, going about his entirely lawful business. Today it looks like he may sue them:
He said: “They took away my camera, notebook and phone so I could not record what they were doing. I thought their reaction was completely disproportionate. I found it was a publicly humiliating experience. It was a bit like being mugged by teenagers.”
Mr Smith said he was consulting lawyers about the legality of the stop.
A City of London Police spokesman said: “A man was spoken to by officers on Monday after police were called by security personnel. He was later searched under terrorism powers.”
One officer commented: “There are hundreds of people who take photographs in the City every day and they do not have any issues. Sometimes it would be helpful if people responded when asked what their business was.
“The risk of terrorism is always there and we do not intend to drop our guard.”
Dropping their guard, when there’s never been a terrorist on earth who’d been so batshit insane as to stand in front of a building with a DSLR with the intention of later blowing it up? Utter garbage – Smith had already stated his business, and the police had no right to interfere with it, nor even to stop him. Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 has been ruled illegal by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and the police have been repeatedly warned by ACPO not to abuse it in this way. Time will tell whether the allegedly civil liberties-friendly ConDem coalition responds positively to the ECHR. In the meantime I hope Smith sues the City police to death, because I don’t see them or their Metropolitan counterparts changing for anyone.
Branch member Grant Smith has sent this account of a stop and search under s44 of the Terrorism Act. The incident happened earlier today in the City of London whilst Grant was doing some test shots for an environmental portrait of an architect. This comes just weeks after the Metropolitan Police issued new guidance to officers about using s44 on photographers.
The incident clearly shows how officers are continuing to abuse Terror laws and how security guards are abusing their position by calling the police every time somebody photographs a building, which they claim is not allowed, but is of course perfectly legal and legitimate.
Can I Please Have My Mobile Phone Back, Officer?
I spent the weekend in Derby at the National Photography Symposium and was involved in a panel discussion on ‘Photography, Security and Terrorism. How ironic that my first assignment back in London today saw me experience again the public humiliation of a detention and a physical search by a City of London police officer.
Scouting for a location on London Wall for a portrait of one of the architect’s responsible for the City’s changing skyline, I went to One Aldermanbury Square. Loaded with a Canon g10, I wandered around the base of the building taking recce shots. A guard employed by the building waved his hands at me, asserting that I couldn’t photograph this building. As I stood on the pavement opposite the building I told him he was wrong, and I had every right to photograph, which I kept on doing. Another guard approached saying the same thing, and that if I didn’t move he’d call the police. (He recognised me from a previous occasion when he had warned me off, which had also resulted in a police response. On that occasion they were satisfied that I was within my rights and I had done nothing wrong. Thus the security guards had prior confirmation from the police that I was a photographer, not a terrorist.) I wandered back and forth, sizing up my locations and where I would place my subject. I walked along London Wall high walk, and saw the frenzied police activity below. Four officers had arrived and were in animated discussion with the guards. A police van with flashing lights sped out of Wood Street and eyeballed me, fixing my position. Uniformed police approached me from both directions. I continued walking and photographing. PC 374 walked towards me and greeted me with a cheery ‘Hello’. I responded in like fashion and continued to walk on as he spoke into his radio. He stopped me with his hand firmly on my chest. I asked if I was being detained.
‘I’d just like a word with you.’
Am I being detained? ‘Yes you are.’
Under what grounds? ‘Section 44(2) of the Terrorism Act.
Why? ‘If you’ll let me finish’, he responded. ‘And you are?’ He inquired the way a school bully might query anyone on their patch.
I wanted to know why I was being detained, and what were the reasonable grounds. ‘The guards at the building over the road alerted us to someone acting suspiciously. And under Section 44(2) we don’t need reasonable grounds.’
‘What’s suspicious about my behaviour. I was taking photographs.’
‘If you let me finish. The fact you were taking photographs, we’d like to know the reason. ‘
I said that I’m in the City, an area of iconic buildings and fascinating historical sites, that’s why I’m taking photographs. He replied with a cryptic answer:‘You’ve just explained it.’ I looked puzzled.
‘The very fact you were here at all is the reason we’ve stopped you.’
I explained that being in a public space I could not be prevented from taking photographs. He said the guards were wrong in trying to stop me. I felt relieved and thought that the whole affair would rest then and there. As I began to move away a second PC, PC29 moved from behind and took both my arms, preventing me from moving. PC 374 then told me he was searching me under s44, and he began to go through my pockets and pat me down. My phone was taken from me. The camera hanging around my neck was carefully removed and placed out of my reach. I asked several times if I could record this incident on camera and was denied this right, being told that under s44(2) I must do as ordered. The power was now in their hands. Mine were still being held.
PC went through my pannier, flipping through personal notebooks, gingerly peeking in a plastic bag that contained a towel and swimmers, still wet from my earlier swim. He located my wallet, and pulled out my drivers licence with obvious glee. Each time I attempted to move PC29’s grip on my arms became firmer. I moved to zip up my jacket, which had been unzipped in the search, and his grip tightened. I explained I was getting cold and would like to warm up. He agreed, but kept hold of me by one hand. I tried to move left or right and he blocked me. Repeated requests for my phone and camera were turned down. I asked to get pen and paper from my bag, and this was declined. I said I wanted to record the incident, only to be told that I will get their record at the end of the procedure.
Many times I asked why was I being stopped under s44. The answer I given was because of my obstructive and non-compliant attitude. Based on this observation, it then became necessary to treat me as a potential criminal suspect. I noted that s44 could be open to misuse, as it was so powerful and sweeping. PC374 replied ‘It has been said, but it is open for our use’ The implication being that it can be used on anyone who is non-compliant.
Waiting for the data base to give PC374 the all-clear on my record, I was kept hemmed against the barrier by PC29, repeatedly told that if I kept moving I would be handcuffed. This scene of public humiliation, as I was restrained and treated like a criminal, was watched by workers from the neighbouring building.
Once the all clear was given, PC374 tore off the pink slip of the s44 stop search form asking if I wanted it. I asked if I could carry on taking photographs, he turned his back on me like a petulant child, forgetting that his cap lay on the ground in the spot he had removed it earlier. Joined by a third PC, the posse then turned their back on me refusing to answer any further questions from me. I watched as the three of them walked away from me, with my mobile phone. Excuse me I called ‘Can I please have my mobile phone back?’
Read my liveblog of the Hostile Reconnaissance rally run by the London Photographers’ Branch of the NUJ against police abuse of anti-terror legislation.
Terror Laws, Civil Liberties & Press Freedom
13th of April, 7pm. Friends Meeting House, Euston.
With the General Election in full swing it is time to put civil liberties and press freedom centre stage in the election debates. Our right to work, our right to protest and dissent are increasingly under threat by the use and abuse of a raft of anti-terror legislation.
Professional and amateur photographers alike are being stopped routinely by police under Section 44 of the Terrorism act on grounds of conducting ‘Hostile Reconnaissance’ which has seen the rapid growth of the campaign group ‘I’m a Photographer Not a Terrorist!‘.
The use of these laws has been challenged and ruled unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights. The filmmaker and NUJ member who is fighting the government appeal to the ruling next week, Pennie Quinton, will be speaking at the rally.
Mike Mansfield QC said in support of the rally:
The Government’s legislation has less to do with terrorism than with control and the suppression of opposition and truth. It has been recognized for some time by the authorities that agents of the state have too often been caught on camera committing unlawful acts: (Orgreave, Poll Tax, Fairford, Brighton, G20, climate camp). The power to confiscate the camera is therefore an essential tool for an oppressive regime.
How such a draconian measure, drafted in such wide ranging terms, got past our so called political scrutineers in the Commons beggars belief. Either they were subverted by the ‘fear factor’, diverted by expenses claims or overcome by sleep. Mind you, it’s the same lot who voted for the War in Iraq in the first place and who later believed security service assurances that the UK had not colluded in rendition and torture. Such an unquestioning and unaccountable bunch of Labour and Tory MPs needs to be booted out on May 6 and this iniquitous provision repealed
The London Photographers’ Branch of the National Union of Journalists, is proud to be hosting a pre-election rally Hostile Reconnaissance – Terror Laws, Civil Liberties & Press Freedom at 7pm on the 13th of April at Friends Meeting House in Euston.
The rally will be chaired by photographer Jess Hurd and we’ve got a top lineup of speakers who have dealt with the raft of terror laws that we face today:
- Jeremy Dear, General Secretary National Union of Journalists
- Paul Lewis, Guardian journalist & British Press Awards Reporter of the Year 2010
- Keith Ewing, Professor of Public Law at King’s College London & author of Bonfire of the Liberties
- Henry Porter, Observer columnist, author & British editor of Vanity Fair
- Chez Cotton, Head of Action Against the Police at Bindmans Solicitors & a co-ordinator of the Police Action Lawyers Group
- Marc Vallée, Photojournalist, investigative journalist and one of the organisers of the I’m A Photographer, Not a Terrorist! campaign group.
- Pennie Quinton, Filmmaker who won the ECHR case that ruled s44 is unlawful.
Opening the rally will be a film by Jason N Parkinson with highlights from the campaign.
Jonathan Warren 077939 40759
Jess Hurd 07713 151765
Proof yet again that the people tasked with keeping us safe are actually just plain stupid:
There were 3 Mancunians called Shoshin busking in Briggate [Leeds] making a rather pleasant kind of urban sound. I stood and watched for a while, made a donation and took a few pictures. After a while they were approached by an official in a red jacket who told them they had, had complaints about the music being too loud. He also told them that they weren’t allowed to have leaflets available to the public or sell CD’s.
He walked off and stood watching with a PCSO. He returned shortly afterwards. I continued taking pictures. Red decided that I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of him and the PCSO doing their job, I explained that I was and took another picture to prove it. He then instructed the PCSO to get my details and began ranting about terrorists and not wanting his picture in the paper. The PCSO asked me to come on one side and talk to me which I did. He then began babbling about terrorists, asked me for my details and asked me why I had an attitude! I told him I would not give him my details. I told him that as he is a public officer I had every right to take his picture whilst doing his job, because unlike other countries law enforcement officers are accountable here. He told me that he didn’t want his picture in the newspapers because of the terrorist threat. That makes absolutely no sense to me. I told him he should go back to his station and look up the advice given to Chief Constables in relation to the harassment of photographers. He of course had never heard of this.
It’s quite a good demonstration that in many cases there aren’t orders, there isn’t a culture; Britain’s surveillance society is just a bunch of old fashioned, stupid jobsworths abusing their authority with powers they don’t even need.
I’ve seen some crazy stories about police harassing photographers, but nothing which can match this one:
According to his blog, Kevin visited the Bridges Shopping Centre in Sunderland with his son to spend the £10 his father gave the boy on a family visit. While there, he seated his son on a coin-operated train ride and snapped a photo of him with his cameraphone. At this point, a Bridges security guard came by and ordered him to stop taking pictures. He said that it was mall policy, and implied that Kevin was taking pictures because he was a paedophile. Kevin told him that this was ridiculous and took his son to find his wife and get out of the mall. He also took a picture of the security guard “so that if I later wanted to make a complaint to the centre I would be able to identify him.”
Outside of the mall, Kevin was stopped by a police constable who had received a complaint from mall security that a suspicious potential paedophile had been taking pictures on its premises. The PC threatened to arrest Kevin “for creating a public disturbance” and ordered him to delete the photo of his son. The PC also averred that the Bridges Shopping Centre is a hotbed of paedophile assaults.
Has the world gone completely mad? Threatening a man with arrest for taking photographs of his own son? And in what way is the shopping centre a ‘hotbed of paedophile assaults’? Do those (whatever the plod meant) normally occur in the full glare of hundreds of busy shoppers? Where do the police think this wave of alleged paedophilia, which merits such interventions and indeed a whole Independent Safeguarding Authority, is coming from?!
It’s cast iron proof that we need to be extremely careful about what powers we give the police. They keep insisting they need to lock people up without charge for 42 days, that the DNA profiles of people unconvicted of or innocent of a crime should be retained for years, despite it already having been proven that there’s no advantage in doing so, even that photographing police officers should be a crime. And all the while they keep protesting that you have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide, that these powers won’t be misused or abused, yet Bob Patefield’s video shows the exact opposite – multiple police officers flagrantly abusing their authority because of legislation which allows them to. It couldn’t be simpler.
Of course these police officers could have spent time looking for pickpockets, for muggers, for violent drunks or wife beaters, but why should they when they have the Terrorism Act 2000 and the Police Reform Act covering their backs? Are they reacting to a moral panic which only the police seem bothered about? Did all police at some point decide that photographers were either terrorists or paedophiles, and needed to be stopped? This wasn’t after all one of the high profile stops in London a couple of months ago – it was in the north of England. Perhaps it was just a case of how the police operate when they have laws which allow them to abuse the innocent.
It was heartening to attend the Mass Photo Gathering in January, organised by I’m a Photographer Not a Terrorist, which demonstrated just how angry and fed up people are by this abuse, but it’s certainly not ended. The police’s insistence on extra or additional powers can’t ever be taken at face value; there has to be a proportionate need for them. After all how often do terrorists use DSLRs to scout targets which can be seen clearly on Google Street View? And how many amateur photographers really go around being ‘anti-social’? Good grief.
The use of Stop & Search without grounds for suspicion has been ruled illegal by European Court of Human Rights. This ruling from Strasbourg comes as thousands of photographers are set to gather in London on Saturday 23rd January to take mass action to defend their right to photograph after a series of high profile detentions under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act.
These included the detention by seven police of an award winning architectural photographer in the City of London, the arrest of a press photographer covering a protest at City Airport and the Stop & Search of a BBC photographer outside St Paul’s Cathedral.
Our society’s visual history is under threat of extinction by anti-terrorism legislation. Section 44 of the Terrorism Act has in effect ended the confidence of the citizen to engage in the act of photography in a public place as photographers, artists and illustrators, amateur and professional are harassed by police invoking terrorism legislation to stop and search them. The act of documenting our street scenes and public life, our built environment, whether iconic or not, is now considered to be an act of hostile reconnaissance and could result in the detention of the image-maker.
The Mass Photo Gathering has been called by the campaign group I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist! which has over 9000 followers on Facebook.
12 Noon. 23 January.