Award-winning architectural photographer Grant Smith who was stopped and searched by anti-terror police while photographing a church, has today received an official response to his complaint from police.
Police questioned the photographer near the Bank of America Merril Lynch building on Cheapside, London EC1 on 8 December.
Smith said he was left stunned when three police cars and a police van – with blue lights flashing and sirens blaring – were called after he declined to provide his details to a security guard at the building which is not far from St Paul’s Cathedral.
The photographer was so incensed by the drama that he helped organise a mass photo protest in Trafalgar Square on Saturday, campaigning about police use of stop and search powers under the Terrorism Act.
In a letter to Smith, dated 25 January, City of London Police Professional Standards Directorate attempts to justify the ‘high level ‘of police response.
Detective Sergeant Craig Mullish writes: ‘I can confirm that the reason? was based on information received from our control room that an aggressive male (fitting your description) was taking photographs of staff within the vicinity of the Bank of America Merrill Lynch, who had refused to leave their premises and also became quite hostile.’
Speaking to Amateur Photographer (AP) this afternoon Smith denied he acted aggressively and plans to take his complaint further.
During the stop and search police recorded personal details such as the photographer’s name, address and date of birth.
‘I want to know what has happened to this information,’ Smith said. ‘Is it deleted once they [police] are satisfied that I’m not actually a terrorist?’
He is also wants to know why the letter fails to address what security staff allegedly told police at the time, that he was ‘photographing members of [security] staff’.
Mullish’s letter suggests that the police response was proportionate, given that the force considers the building to be a ‘terrorist target’. ‘This coupled with the current general threat of terrorism and the absence of your co-operation, the officer believed it relevant and necessary to exercise his powers, and stop and search you under Section 44 (2) of the Terrorism Act,’ Mullish adds.
The incident attracted mass media attention.
Adding to the controversy, police then urged photographers to carry ID with them when taking pictures in the The City.
Smith says he is completely ‘fed up’ with the attitude of the police and plans to take the matter further.
He blasted the police for the ‘vagueness’ of certain words used in the letter. For example, he questions Mullish’s use of ‘in the vicinity’ and wonders how a photographer is supposed to know whether he is in the ‘vicinity’ of a high-profile building or not.
City of London Police has today confirmed to AP that the head of Counter Terrorism Chris Greany issued photography guidelines across the force following the incident and the widespread media coverage that it sparked.
These rules included a Home Office circular on ‘Photography and Counter-Terrorism’.
Picture (below): Grant Smith, pictured on the far left, is interviewed by the media in Trafalgar Square on Saturday. Grant helped organise a mass protest against police use of stop and search powers on innocent photographers. The event, organised by ‘I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist’, attracted around 2,000 people, many of them amateurs. Today he praised AP’s help in highlighting the issues leading up to the protest as ‘invaluable’ Photo credit: Chris Cheesman
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