Use of counter-terrorism legislation in relation to 'photography' will be reviewed as a 'priority' as part of a rapid overhaul of anti-terrorism laws, the Home Secretary has announced today.

Photographers at Scotland YardUse of counter-terrorism legislation in relation to ‘photography’ will be reviewed as a ‘priority’ as part of a rapid overhaul of anti-terrorism laws, the Home Secretary has announced today.

In a statement, the Home Office pledged to review photography and anti-terror laws, alongside legislation regarding the detention of terrorist suspects before charge, and the use of control orders.

Home Secretary Theresa May said: ‘National security is the first duty of the government but we are also committed to reversing the substantial erosion of civil liberties.

‘Use of terrorism legislation in relation to photography, detention of terrorist suspects before charge and the use of control orders are among the areas to be reviewed as a priority.’

She added: ‘I want a counter-terrorism regime that is proportionate, focused and transparent. We must ensure that in protecting public safety, the powers we need to deal with terrorism are in keeping with Britain’s traditions of freedom and fairness.

‘We will look at the evidence presented to us and where it is clear that legislation needs to be amended or powers need to be rolled back, we will do so.’

The news comes less than a week after the scrapping of police use of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act to stop photographers when taking pictures in a public place.

And it follows a long-running campaign spearheaded by Amateur Photographer magazine and taken up by other photographic bodies and publications, including the British Journal of Photography and the I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist! campaign group.

Amateur Photographer understands that the issue of photographers and terror laws has been discussed at high level within the Government in recent days.

We have learned that Francis Maude MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, approached Theresa May about photographers’ ongoing concerns in the past fortnight, after lobbying from a photographer who is an avid reader of Amateur Photographer.

Amateur Photographer has reported on this issue since 2005 when police swooped on one of the magazine’s readers who was suspected of planning a rocket attack on Canary Wharf in London. It turned out that he had merely been taking pictures of buildings along the River Thames for a photography project.

A copy of the press release issued by the Home Office:

Rapid review of counter-terrorism powers

Tuesday, 13 Jul 2010

The Home Secretary has announced today that a rapid review of key counter-terrorism and security powers is underway. The review will look at what counter-terrorism powers and measures could be rolled back in order to restore the balance of civil liberties and counter-terrorism powers.

Statement from the Home Secretary

Theresa May said, ‘National security is the first duty of government but we are also committed to reversing the substantial erosion of civil liberties.

‘I want a counter-terrorism regime that is proportionate, focused and transparent. We must ensure that in protecting public safety, the powers which we need to deal with terrorism are in keeping with Britain?s traditions of freedom and fairness.

‘I am delighted that Lord Ken Macdonald QC will provide expert independent oversight of the review. This role is distinct from the excellent work that is already being undertaken by Lord Carlile of Berriew QC in his statutory role as independent reviewer of terrorism legislation.

‘We will look at the evidence presented to us and where it is clear that legislation needs to be amended or powers need to be rolled back, we will do so.?

The review will look at six areas:

? the use of control orders

? stop and search powers in section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 and the use of terrorism legislation in relation to photography

? the detention of terrorist suspects before charge

? extending the use of deportations with assurances to remove foreign nationals from the UK who pose a threat to national security

? measures to deal with organisations that promote hatred or violence

? the use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) by local authorities, and access to communications data more generally.

Lord Ken Macdonald QC will provide independent oversight of the review. He will ensure it is properly conducted, that all the relevant options have been considered and that the recommendations are balanced.

The Home Secretary will report back on the findings of the review in the autumn.

The review will be carried out by the Home Office, with oversight from Lord Ken Macdonald QC, former Director of Public Prosecutions. Lord Macdonald was made a Liberal Democrat life peer in May this year.

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