Private security guards have no right to stop people taking photographs, City of London Police has reminded businesses in an anti-terrorism bulletin.

The police bulletin coincides with guidance displayed on lens cloths (pictured above) that come with Amateur Photographer’s 2 June issue, in shops from Tuesday 29 May

‘The vast majority of people taking photographs are doing so for entirely innocent purposes, and the fact that someone is taking photographs does not in itself indicate hostile reconnaissance or other suspicious behaviour,’ states the City of London Business & Community Bulletin, sent to thousands of people earlier this month.

‘Security guards cannot delete images, require them to be deleted, demand to see images or seize cameras, nor can they obstruct individuals from taking photographs,’ adds the guidance.

Despite the rules appearing in previous police bulletins, it seems the message has failed to get through to some private security staff following years of campaigning by photographers to defend their rights.

And the latest bulletin, sent by email on 18 May, is a timely one given recent reports of photographers being targeted in the run-up to the London 2012 Olympics.

‘This is a process that is going to take some time,’ said a spokesperson for City of London Police which was involved in talks over photographers’ rights with Amateur Photographer (AP) last year.

‘But hopefully, in the City, we are making progress.’

Among those receiving the briefing was Andrew Smith, who works for a transport company in South London.

He told AP: ‘It is positive that the City of London Police are passing on information to businesses about what photographers are permitted to do and, also, what private security staff can’t do, given the previous problems that a number of photographers have encountered.’

The advice warns security staff against displaying ‘intimidating or aggressive behaviour’.

It adds: ‘If a security guard deems behaviour to be suspicious, that suspicion should be resolved either through reporting the incident to police without delay, or through polite questioning of the person concerned.

‘A security guard can approach a person they believe is acting suspiciously and ask them to account for their actions.

‘They cannot stop or detain that person, or prevent them from leaving if they decline to answer. Powers under s.43 Terrorism Act 2000 of stop, examination and seizure are only available to a police officer.

‘If police have been called to a report of suspicious behaviour, security guards cannot detain the person while they wait for police to arrive.’

A guard can only use ‘reasonable force’, to ensure that a person leaves privately-owned premises where photography is ‘expressly prohibited by the landlord or requires a permit which has not been sought or granted’.

The guidance to private security mirrors rules that appear on a lens cloth that comes free with AP’s issue date 2 June, due in shops tomorrow (see picture above).