Stop and search and photographers: Anti terrorism minister issues statement
Picture: At yesterday's meeting were (left to right) Amateur Photographer magazine news editor Chris Cheesman; Editor Damien Demolder; ACPO's stop and search spokesman Craig Mackey; Home Office minister David Hanson; Austin Mitchell MP; RPS treasurer Walter Benzie; and John Tracy, chief executive of the Bureau of Freelance Photographers.
Counter-terrorism minister David Hanson has issued a statement following yesterday’s meeting with Amateur Photographer (AP) magazine and other representatives of the photographic community.
During the meeting, held at the Home Office, the government once again attempted to reassure photographers that they are not being 'targeted' by police officers under anti-terrorism stop and search powers.
Staff from AP were the only photography journalists invited to the meeting, which took place at the Home Office's base in Marsham Street, Westminster.
The meeting was set up by Austin Mitchell MP, a keen photographer and rights campaigner, following growing concerns that photographers are targeted by police officers using their anti-terrorism powers.
David Hanson, Minister for Policing and Crime, said in a statement, issued this morning: ‘I recently met with Austin Mitchell [chairman of the Parliamentary All Party Photography Group] and representatives of the photographic press to discuss the issue of counter terrorism powers and offences in relation to photography.
‘I welcomed the opportunity to reassure all those concerned with this issue that we have no intention of Section 44 or Section 58a [of the Terrorism Act] being used to stop ordinary people taking photos or to curtail legitimate journalistic activity.’
He added: ‘Guidance has been provided to all police forces advising that these powers and offences should not be used to stop innocent members of the public, tourists or responsible journalists from taking photographs.
STATEMENT CONTINUES HERE
Page Two: 'I have committed to follow-up on the representations made to me'
Hanson added: ‘These powers and offences are intended to help protect the public and those on the front line of our counter terrorism operations from terrorist attack. For the 58A offence to be committed, the information is of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.
‘I have committed to writing to Austin Mitchell MP to reinforce this message and to follow-up on the representations made to me at today’s meeting.’
During the meeting Austin Mitchell called for a 'strengthening' of the ACPO and Home Office guidelines on photography that were issued last year.
He told the minister: 'We think it's appropriate to strengthen these circulars [to police officers] to assert the fact that photography is a right. Photographers need to feel confident and not inhibited. The circular could emphasise that.'
Amateur Photographer staff relayed photographers' ongoing concerns that their right to take photographs in public has yet to be sufficiently communicated to police officers on the ground, despite ACPO, Home Office and Met Police guidelines.
Mitchell urged the Home Office to improve the training of Police Community Support Officers who many photographers have reported as the predominant abusers of anti-terror laws.
Before the meeting Hanson had written to the Great Grimsby MP, telling him that he takes the matter ‘seriously’.
‘Counter terrorism powers should only be used for terrorism purposes. These laws are not, and never have been, designed to stop people taking photographs. People have the right to take photographs in public for legitimate reasons.’
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