A council-run railway museum has banned visitors from taking any photographs or video footage of children, on grounds of 'child protection'.


A photo of the sign was posted on Railway Eye, a railway blogging website (see above)

‘Because of Child Protection legislation, it is not permitted to take ANY photographs or videos of any children in the Museum. Thank you for your understanding,’ reads a sign at Swindon’s Museum of the Great Western Railway, known as STEAM.

The decision was blasted as ‘pointless’ by one ‘hacked off photographer’ who posted a photo of the signage on Railway Eye, a railway blogging website (see above).

The incensed blogger added: ‘They appear hopelessly confused with the Data Protection Act and even then it has no relevance.

‘Presumably, some petty council jobs-worth with too much time on their hands dreamt this one up?’

The museum is billed as one of Wiltshire’s most popular tourist attractions.

Under Chapter 37 of the Protection of Children Act 1978 it is an offence to take an ‘indecent’ photograph of a child.

And non-commercial pictures of children in a scene, taken without permission, do not breach UK privacy rules.

A spokesman for the Information Commissioners’ Office (ICO), which acts as the UK’s privacy watchdog, told Amateur Photographer (AP): ‘Section 36 of the Data Protection Act provides an exemption from the Data Protection Act for information that will only be used for domestic purposes.’

The ICO spokesman added: ‘If a normal member of the public takes a picture in a museum and other people are in the shot, then the domestic purpose exemption would normally apply.

‘However, if the photo was to be used in a professional capacity, i.e. a professional photographer for an upcoming piece of work, then asking for the permission of those that are in the picture should be enough to ensure compliance.

‘There is no data protection reason for banning all photography within a museum; however, a common sense approach should be adopted.’

Among those voicing concern over the museum’s sign is Chris Milner, deputy editor of The Railway Magazine.

‘Will it lead to a proliferation of such signs around the country?’ he asks.

A spokesperson for the Grade II listed railway building told AP: ‘As part of Swindon Borough Council, STEAM is strongly committed to protecting and promoting the welfare of children.

‘STEAM welcomes 20,000 school visitors each year and follows Swindon Borough Council’s Code of Practice on Photographing Children within Leisure Facilities.

‘The Museum also has its own Safeguarding Policy. We currently do not allow photography or filming of school children on the museum premises by the general visitor.’

Asked if parents are banned from photographing their own children, the spokesperson added: ‘We do, however, encourage visitors to photograph their friends and family within the STEAM Collection and displays, while asking them to respect the privacy of others.’

Museum bosses have pledged to amend the sign’s wording after being contacted by AP.

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  • David Murray

    This is the crap I encountered when I complained about Stuart James White, a Derbyshire teacher employed by Derbyshire County Council, who ran out of Barrow Hill Primary School on 12 July 2006 and attacked me. His justification was that he had seen me standing across the road 150 metres away, taking photos of a new housing development.
    The Council stated that the teacher acted correctly, as he ‘perceived a risk of harm, to the children in the school.’ When pressed to identify the nature of this ‘perceived risk of harm.’ the County’s crook of a solicitor replied that it was not appropriate to answer my question. I went very wrong on that day: I should have hit White in the face with my camera. We would have got to court a damn site quicker. Then those meddling, interfering busy-bodies would have had to stand up and explain themselves. Instead, we spent four years haggling over it.

  • Chris Seary

    What’s the problem? I don’t want anyone photographing my child when he’s on a school trip, and I have no intention taking these sort of shots myself.

    Am I missing something?

  • David Murray

    This is the crap I encountered when I complained about Stuart James White, a Derbyshire teacher employed by Derbyshire County Council, who ran out of Barrow Hill Primary School on 12 July 2006 and attacked me. His justification was that he had seen me standing across the road 150 metres away, taking photos of a new housing development.
    The Council stated that the teacher acted correctly, as he ‘perceived a risk of harm, to the children in the school.’ When pressed to identify the nature of this ‘perceived risk of harm.’ the County’s crook of a solicitor replied that it was not appropriate to answer my question. I went very wrong on that day: I should have hit White in the face with my camera. We would have got to court a damn site quicker. Then those meddling, interfering busy-bodies would have had to stand up and explain themselves. Instead, we spent four years haggling over it.

  • Jon Diener

    What’s next!?! Signs banning eye contact with people not in your immediate family?

  • Patsy

    Oh goody, an opportunity to bash a council again. Note sarcasm.

    There are VERY valid reasons to have this policy.

    Photographing children within leisure facilities can put some children at risk. We work with children from safe houses, where mothers have fled from serious domestic violence, and we’ve also worked with kids that are in witness protection. People just willy nilly post photos of other peoples kids up on social networking sites (usually open to all cos that’s how dumb they are) with no regard at all to child safety or privacy. A violent father using the internet to track kids down will be scouring sites in the area they think the kids may be in.

    Yes the wording needs doing properly, yes parents need to be explained to it doesn’t stop them photographing their own kid, but quite frankly you have no right to photograph other peoples kids and put it all over the net without permission. It is not a ‘public space’ (the street) it’s a private building you’ve entered and they are fully entitled to have this policy to protect children they care about. It’s not just about the DP Act, it’s about Human Rights & Privacy. And being decent polite considerate human beings!

    Think how you’d react as a parent if your children were photographed in the local council swimming pool, another one where this comes up for us ALL the time, and then you found the images on a child porn site, you’d go absolutely ape. And rightly so.

    Good on Swindon Council for taking the safeguarding of children seriously. It’s a shame more people in society don’t follow suit instead of trotting out the same council bashing rubbish without looking at the serious reasons why a policy exists in the first place.

  • Alan Gregson

    I saw a similar sign at Kendal Leisure Centre at the weekend.
    I think in this instance it is a sensible precaution as the children will be wearing less clothing whilst swimming.

  • Roger B.

    More of the usual stupidity is here shown up by the use of cliched phrases in order to sound as though they know what they are talking about.

    Here they have shown themselves up by using the phrase ‘school children’ without thinking it through. It’s not permitted to take still or moving images of them, according to the sign, but it’s okay if it’s children under school age. How consistent.

    Would you visit a museum that has people like this running it?