Amateur photographers’ rights back in the news (update)

June 24, 2008

The right to take pictures in public has once again hit the headlines with reports that a lifelong bus spotter has quit after wrongly been labelled a ?terrorist and paedophile?.

NEWS UPDATE 26 June: The issue of photographers’ rights triggered a flood of calls to BBC Radio Shropshire this morning, prompting them to call AP’s newsdesk for comment about Amateur Photographer’s ongoing campaign.

National newspapers report that Rob McCaffrey has been forced to ?hang up his camera? after more than 40 years because he is fed up with arousing suspicion among members of the public.

The 50-year-old says he has been stopped by police officers while taking pictures of buses in Wales in the past year.

In one incident a bus driver apparently objected to having his photo taken. In another, a Police Community Support Officer is said to have run his name and address through police computers after a member of the public complained he had been acting strangely, according to publications including The Daily Mail, The Sun and the The Daily Telegraph.

McCaffrey, from Gloucester, told The Sun: ?Since the 9/11 attacks there has been a crackdown on security and it seems everyone with a camera is a potential criminal. It?s very upsetting.?

In a press statement, Gloucestershire Police told newspapers: ?If a member of the public becomes suspicious of an individual taking photos in public and makes a complaint to a police officer, the officer will first discuss the matter with the photographer.

?Normally, the individual is more than happy to disperse any suspicion by showing an officer their photos and one of the benefits of digital cameras is that this can be done on the spot.

?However, if the officer remains suspicious as to the content of the images or the photographer?s intentions, they have the authority, under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, to seize the camera and arrest the individual.?

No one from the force was available for comment at the time of writing.

Officers can stop and search anyone under the Terrorism Act 2000 whether or not they suspect them to be carrying articles that could be used in connection with terrorism.

However, once an image has been recorded, police officers ?have no power to delete or confiscate it without a court order?, according to the Association of Chief Police Officers spokeswoman Alexandra Coleman.

She told Amateur Photographer (AP) magazine that officers? powers are ?strictly regulated by law? and that this rule applies regardless of whether the officer suspects criminal or terrorist intent.

The news comes as AP continues to be approached by journalists researching articles on the subject, one of which is published HERE.

For more about police powers, keep an eye out for AP, which is in shops every Tuesday.


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