Photographers wary after terror law change

Photographers have welcomed changes to anti-terror laws but warn that police still have the power to stop and search using Section 43 of the Terrorism Act.

Police pic

Photographers have welcomed changes to anti-terror laws but warn that police still have the power to stop and search using Section 43 of the Terrorism Act.

Yesterday Home Secretary Theresa May announced an immediate end to police use of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act which allowed officers to stop and search a person without reasonable suspicion.

Many photographers have fallen victim to the controversial law in recent years, sparking several campaigns in support of a photographer’s basic right to take pictures in a public place.

A spokesman for the Bureau of Freelance Photographers said: 'Hopefully, this will lead to fewer photographers being stopped from taking photographs.

'However, the situation with security guards occasionally stopping photographers from photographing buildings is likely to continue.'

The campaign group I'm a Photographer Not a Terrorist! welcomed the news, but cautioned: ‘Unfortunately there is still a swathe of laws that police can and will use to harass photographers, most notably Section 43, which is similar to Section 44 but requires an officer to suspect that you are a terrorist and Section 76 which makes it illegal to "elicit information about a police officer", which includes photographing them.’

Section 43 of the Terrorism Act states: 'A constable may stop and search a person whom he reasonably suspects to be a terrorist to discover whether he has in his possession anything which may constitute evidence that he is a terrorist.'

The Government’s decision followed last week’s European Court of Human Rights rejection of a Home Office appeal against a ruling that police use of Section 44 stop-and-search powers is unlawful.

The court had ruled that Section 44 stop-and-search anti-terrorism powers are illegal, back in January.

Theresa May said yesterday: ‘I will not allow the continued use of Section 44 in contravention of the European Court’s ruling and, more importantly, in contravention of the civil liberties of every one of us.’

Officers will only be allowed to use Section 44 in relation to searches of vehicles.

The Home Office says police have now been issued with new guidelines which set a ‘new suspicion threshold’ in relation to use of Section 43.

In a statement issued yesterday, the Metropolitan Police said: ‘Public safety remains our top priority and we will continue to use all other powers available to us to keep London a hostile environment for terrorists.

‘Police officers continue to have the power to stop and search anyone they reasonably suspect to be a terrorist under Section 43 of the Terrorism Act.

‘We will continue to work closely with the Home Office and other police forces throughout the ongoing review of CT [counter-terrorism] legislation.’

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