Home Office guidance designed to ensure that police officers do not misuse anti-terrorism legislation when dealing with photographers, has been delayed, Amateur Photographer (AP) has learnt.rnrn

PAGE 1: Home Office photo guidance delayed

Police `G20 imageHome Office guidance designed to ensure that police officers do not misuse anti-terrorism legislation when dealing with photographers, has been delayed, Amateur Photographer (AP) has learnt.

In March, counter-terrorism minister Vernon Coaker invited the magazine to help draft guidance relating to officers’ use of Section 76 of the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 which came into force in February.

The Home Office plans to distribute the guidance, in the form of a circular, to all police forces.

The new law makes a photograph of a police constable a potential crime if police deem it likely to be useful to a terrorist.

But a Home Office source said yesterday that a draft copy of the police circular has been delayed owing to a wider review linked to last month’s announcement that police plan to scale back their use of routine stop-and-search powers.

The move, by the Metropolitan Police’s watchdog, followed a review of officers’ use of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act amid widespread criticism from sections of the public.

However, the Home Office assured AP that it still plans to issue the Section 76 guidance, a draft copy of which will be sent to the magazine for comment ahead of its publication and distribution to police nationwide.

And, the source claimed, the guidance would not be put in jeopardy by this week’s resignation of Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

Turn to page 2 for comments from the counter-terrorism minister about Section 76.

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PAGE 2: Policing minister: ‘You can take pictures of police officers’

In a separate move earlier this week, counter-terrorism minister Vernon Coaker spoke about the impact of Section 76 on the press.

According to journalists’ publication Press Gazette, he told a parliamentary committee looking into police treatment of photojournalists at the G20 protests: ‘You can take pictures of police officers, you can take pictures of uniformed personnel, there is nothing in law that says you can’t do that.

‘Frankly, you can see it everyday outside parliament, people stood next to police officers, posing for photographs. So, you know, there is nothing in law that says that.’

He added: ‘There are occasions when people are prevented from taking a photograph, and you kind of think: why are you being prevented from taking a photograph in this way?

‘We know the intent of the legislation was the prevention of taking photographs of military personnel or police officers in a way which was about how to prepare for terrorist acts and it certainly shouldn’t be used for routine prevention of the taking of photos.’

Fearing that the new legislation would lead to further ‘abuse’ of police powers, hundreds of photographers staged a demonstration outside New Scotland Yard in London on 16 February.