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).
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.
So this is the important bit in the Deputy Prime Minister’s speech, promising a bright, new, un-authoritarian future, with:
Landmark legislation, from politicians who refused to sit back and do nothing while huge swathes of the population remained helpless against vested interests.
Who stood up for the freedom of the many, not the privilege of the few.
A spirit this government will draw on as we deliver our programme for political reform: a power revolution.
A fundamental resettlement of the relationship between state and citizen that puts you in charge.
‘Much in this new Government statement accords with the BHA’s policies we set out in our own manifestos ahead of the election and with the principles of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. We particularly welcome moves to increase freedom of speech, and a reformed House of Lords which, by being fully elected, would necessarily remove the right of Bishops to sit in our second chamber.’
‘We also look forward to making our case for the repeal and revision of unjust, restrictive and discriminatory laws, such as those which require compulsory worship on our school children – a clear violation of their freedom of conscience – and those which unfairly restrict the right to free speech and protest.’
I think Copson is generally right but there are serious problems here. Clegg’s ideas are laudable, but there are as yet no indications as to how he thinks he’ll implement them – moving children of asylum seekers from one detention centre to another (particularly one with a notorious reputation) is not a remotely adequate solution. Much of the push towards ID cards came from within the civil service itself, and there is still an entrenched authoritarian culture in government agencies which needs urgent tackling; just yesterday the new government took the same stand on control orders as its predecessor.
I don’t just expect a repeal of New Labour’s surveillance state laws, I expect a change in culture to uphold the rule of law and to abide by evidence-based policy making. That means not just accepting the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling on the National DNA Database, but abiding by rulings against denying prisoners the vote and on the legality of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act. I’m worried that now in government Clegg is going to pick and choose what works for him and what doesn’t and not challenge the vested interests, defeat of whom really would make the “most significant programme of empowerment by a British government since the great enfranchisement of the 19th Century” much more than overexcited hyperbole.
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
Watch these two videos of campaigner Charlie Veitch being stopped by the Metropolitan Police under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, despite having demonstrably not broken a single law. A comedian speaking loudly through a megaphone is now longer a lawful reason under the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling to stop and search people on anti-terrorism grounds, but watch the exchange. It’s quite revealing:
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.
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.
Sir Ian Blair, the Met Commissioner who defended his force after its murder of Jean Charles de Menezes has attacked the European Court of Human Rights for declaring Section 44 of the Terrorism Act in contravention with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR):
It is important to understand that the power granted by this legislation is entirely different to that provided for stop and search for drugs, stolen goods and weapons. For those offences, police have to have reasonable suspicion that an individual may have such items upon them. The whole point of Section 44 is that that is not required: this is a process, akin to an airport search, designed to make clear to terrorists that they are at risk, however covert their behaviour, of being searched and having their details logged at random.
Were the power to be abolished or unduly curtailed in its application – although as Lord Carlile suggests, there may be merit in a limited review following this judgment – two consequences are likely. The first is that it would be almost inevitable that police officers would, as a pragmatic solution, begin to target these kind of searches much more closely on the particular community from which the current threat is seen mainly but not exclusively to come, young Muslims, with all the increase in alienation that would engender. Inconvenience shared must be preferable. Second, and avoidably, Britain would simply be less safe.
What a complete and utter idiot. Inconvenience shared? Britain less safe? What on earth is this madman going on about? The inconvenience is far from shared:
Last year it was revealed that since May 2007 the number of searches under section 44 powers had risen by 322% for black people, 277% for Asian people, but only 185% for white people. The result was that police reportedly increased the searches in order to balance racial quotas, in one instance mounting an operation at the entrance of the British Library in London.
I myself have been on the receiving end of a search, when I was taking entirely lawful photos in an entirely lawful place. When I complained about the search the Met officer admitted they had only stopped me because I was white, and in that borough most of their stops were Asian or black. It’s also not remotely clear what benefit Section 44 has actually had. How on earth would losing arbitrary power to stop and search, which is frequently abused actually make the country less safe? By no longer stopping photographers taking photos of tall buildings? I can’t believe this blithering idiot was actually in charge of the Metropolitan Police. The ECHR accepts that this power is arbitrary, is thus used arbitrarily and as a result breaks our human right of privacy. Bizarrely as Porter says, the same government which introduced the Human Rights Act, has decided to appeal the court’s ruling.
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.
Henry Porter argues the police clampdown on photographers is part of a broader battle for control of our public space:
Over 300 of Britain’s best-known photographers have signed a letter to protest against the use of terror laws to stop and search by police and the officious regiment of Police Community Support Officers. The letter comes after news that a photographer belonging to the NUJ – Andrew Handley of MK News in Milton Keynes – received £5,000 after being unlawfully held for taking pictures of a car accident.
What both these pieces of news demonstrate is that police nationally have, without proper legislative authority, taken it upon themselves to obstruct the rights of photographers and the duty of journalists to go about their business. As I have said before, there is an ongoing struggle about the control of public space, which has profoundly symbolic importance for a free society. What seems to be happening is that police using terror laws have decided that all public space has been re-designated as state space, over which the police and CCTV systems have exclusive photographic rights.
It’s a well-made and terrifyingly logical argument, and unquestionably connected to the broader issue of New Labour’s systematic drift from accountability and the rule of law. A government dedicated to ignoring the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling on its National DNA Database, to trying to lock people up without charge for 42 days, to setting up databases which precriminalise the entire population is the root cause; finding the solution is more difficult. On the one hand Porter is entirely right when he says the police are acting autonomously in how they are increasingly (mis)managing public space; on the other there’s a Home Office which despite its public distancing from the police on this matter, privately relishes it. After all they don’t expect Section 44 of the Terrorism Act (which the police didn’t even ask for), the DNA database, ID card, ISA or any other intrusive legislation not to be used.
Join me at I’m a Photographer Not a Terrorist’s mass photo gathering in defence of street photography in Trafalgar Square. It’s on the 23rd January at 12 noon.
Dominic Lawson has it just right:
This is the background which makes the way in which a Nigerian man was able to detonate an explosive on a transatlantic flight all the more irritating – and it would have been vastly more than irritating if Mr Abdulmutallab’s home-made bomb had ignited as he intended. It turns out that, following an explicit warning by his father to the US authorities about his “extreme” political views, Abdulmutallab’s name had been put on a security watch list, known as Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (Tide). Now, guess how many names are on this list. A thousand? Ten thousand? No, this list, according to Washington officials, contains more than half-a-million names.
So no wonder Abdulmutallab was not subject to any special concerns by officials as he boarded Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day. If, through sheer bureaucratic over-enthusiasm the authorities have managed to create a list of over half-a-million possible terrorists (perhaps including a handful of Austrian bus-spotters) they might as well have an invisible list with no names, for all the use it will be.
If we are almost all potential terrorists, then we have entered a world of such morbid suspiciousness that none of us can feel safe: exactly the inverse of what our masters’ policies are supposedly designed to achieve.
And this is what the database state is all about: a lazy belief that by codifying, indexing and listing everybody and everything we don’t like on numerous databases, that through these means we can all be protected from every risk you could mention. ID cards will protect us from ID theft (what about just using a shredder?), the ISA will protect us from paedophiles (when local managerial protection and policies are more likely to work), the secret police databases will protect us from protesters (ironic considering many of us are protesters). In the meantime ID cards can be cloned, the ISA will never identify the real child abusers anyway and how on earth could a no-fly list of half a million ever notice Abdulmutallab? The airport security staff will no doubt have been spending so much time trying to threaten photographers that they failed to notice a man walking on a plane carrying a bomb.
I understand that governments will always look for the most efficient answers, but this one and the next have to realise that the security of those most at risk is being threatened by this detatchment from one another. Stop giving the wrong powers to the wrong people – it is the nature of power to be used, and the wrong powers will inevitably be misused. Just wait till the joys we have coming with the Digital Economy Bill.
Do you think it’s an act of insanity for a police officer to stop and search someone taking a photograph of a sunset? Tell that story to any reasonable person and they’ll say you made it up, but the truth is stranger than fiction. Matthew Parris recounts the story:
He [BBC photographer Jeff Overs] was there [Andrew Marr Show] to describe an attempt by the Metropolitan Police to stop him photographing a sunset over St Paul’s Cathedral. The officer had been acting, she said, under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act. She’d been stopping loads of people taking pictures that afternoon “and nobody’s complained”. I mentioned that I’d been moved on from among the pigeons in Trafalgar Square when recording (into something no bigger than a Dictaphone) for a radio programme about wild animals in London. Mariella said she thought it was sinister.
I think it’s worse than sinister. It’s plumb stupid. Is there anything you could call a presiding human intelligence at work in our counter-terrorism operations? Has nobody in the Met heard of Google Street View? Do senior officers talk to junior officers about priorities, and if so, do they think it likely that al-Qaeda would use operatives carrying professional photographic equipment, rather than disguised as tourists with mobile phones? Do they think that if an officer has reason to suspect someone of taking pictures for the purposes of terrorism, the appropriate response could ever be just to tell them to stop?
For those of you eager to find out what the plods are and aren’t allowed to do as regards photographers and Section 44 have a read of this:
* If police stop and search you, the first thing you should ask is on what grounds they are conducting the search and under what powers.
* Police are able to conduct searches under a number of different pieces of legislation but they usually use either the Public Order Act, the Criminal Justice Act or under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
* Unless you are stopped while driving a car, you do NOT have to give your name or address.
* Police officers are obliged to ask for your given ethnicity. Once again, it is up to you whether you choose to answer or not.
* If police use Section 44 of the Terrorism Act they are entitled to view any images you have taken but they are NOT allowed to delete them. They can only do so with a court order.
* Under Section 58a of the Terrorism Act, police are only allowed to stop a photographer taking pictures of officers if they reasonably suspect the photos are intended to be used in connection with terrorism.
* Whether you are stopped and searched, or merely stopped and accounted for, the police officer should hand you a record of your stop.
Yet of course abuses under Section 44 continue. Take photographer Jerome Taylor:
I was on the South Bank of the Thames trying to compose a shot of the Houses of Parliament last week when two police officers stopped me.
Despite living in London for the past five years I had never photographed the Houses of Parliament before. I wish I’d never bothered. Just as I’d finished fine-tuning my first composition, two officers appeared. “Excuse me, sir,” said one. “My colleague and I would like to perform a stop-and-account on you. Don’t worry, you haven’t done anything wrong.”
For the next 10 minutes I was questioned about my evening and asked to give my height, name, address and ethnicity – all of which was recorded in a form that will now be held at the nearest police station for the next year. The form explained why I had been stopped: “Using a camera and tripod next to Westminster Bridge,” it read.
When asked about Taylor on the BBC, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), Britain’s for-profit advisory quango for the police said:
On BBC One, [Chief Constable Andy] Trotter reaffirmed that the two police officers should not have used Section 44 powers to stop Taylor. ‘It’s hard to understand why Jerome was stopped,’ he said. ‘There was no need to do a stop-and-search in that case.’
He added that it was not ‘an offence to take a photograph in a public place. ‘These powers were brought in to protect the public, not to oppress,’ Trotter told BBC One.
Trotter’s comments only reaffirmed guidelines issued by the Home Office that specifically say that photography is legal in the UK and that powers given by the Terrorism Act 2000 shouldn’t be used to prevent photographers from taking images in public.
ACPO says Section 44 was brought in to protect, not to oppress, however yet again when push comes to shove, the police (and Met in particular) do everything in their power to oppress. Matthew Parris is right later in his article when he says all the surveilling a terrorist need do can be done in complete privacy on Google Earth – it’s not just absurd to suspect numerous, clearly law-abiding photographers of terrorism, it’s just plain stupid. But hey that’s the standard of policing we have in this country. They have guidelines from the Home Office and ACPO not to behave like this, yet they persist with next to no accountability.