Coalition government – where will photographers stand? (update)

May 11, 2010

As the country moves closer to what looks set to be a deal between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, it may be useful to reflect on where both parties stand on photographers? rights.

Yesterday, we learned that innocent photographers continue to be the unwitting victims of the UK’s anti-terrorism laws when architectural photographer Grant Smith was stopped while photographing a building in the City of London and physically restrained by officers who confiscated his camera and mobile phone.

Before the election, Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said that a Conservative government would end police misuse of controversial stop-and search powers that have hit many innocent photographers.

The pledge came as figures showed that police use of the controversial Section 44 stop-and-search power jumped 66% in 2008/2009, compared with a year earlier.

In a statement the Conservative Party said: ‘Many people, particularly amateur photographers, have said that the Government has allowed the police to misuse counter-terror powers to target innocent tourists and bystanders.’

Grayling (pictured) added: ‘Gordon Brown and Labour have trampled our civil liberties for far too long. Whether they’re trying to impose ID cards, or allowing hundreds of thousands of innocent people to be stopped and searched under Terrorism powers, they always seem to think the state knows best.

‘We can’t go on like this. Conservatives will end the abuse of stop-and-search as part of a full review of all Labour’s counter-terrorism laws.’

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats called for an ‘urgent’ review of counter-terrorism stop and search legislation, saying it must not be used to target photographers and tourists.

The party told Amateur Photographer (AP) last month that while it backs the use of police stop and search as an anti-terrorism measure, Section 44 must be reviewed.

‘This law is in urgent need of a very big clarification,’ a Lib Dem Home Affairs spokesman said.

The Lib Dem spokeman expressed concern that innocent members of the public, including photographers, have ‘fallen foul of this government’s attitude towards counter-terrorism legislation’.

‘We think that Section 44 has been overused and used for purposes for which it was not intended.’

Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary Chris Huhne added: ‘When trainspotters, photographers and Japanese tourists are all up in arms, it should be clear even to Labour this law needs to be tightened up.

‘Random and indiscriminate use of stop and search is an infringement of liberty and alienates the communities we rely on most for the intelligence and witnesses to fight terrorism.’

In a meeting with Amateur Photographer magazine in March, the government once again attempted to reassure photographers that they are not being ‘targeted’ by police officers under anti-terrorism stop and search powers.

And the government’s terrorism watchdog, Lord Carlile, recently confirmed to Amateur Photographer that he has called for Section 44 of the Terrorism Act to be abolished.


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AP meets counter-terrorism minister in Parliament

Photographer to complain against City police

Police crackdown on City photographers

Watch a recent More4 News report HERE

Watch a recent London Tonight report HERE

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The Independent’s photo rights article

Sunday Telegraph interviews AP

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BBC photographer in terror stop

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Amateur photographer arrested

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Met issues photography guidelines

Amateur Photographer magazine to help draft anti-terror guidance

Carlile report criticises terror law

Photographers ‘guilty’ until proved innocent

Lawyer speaks out about terror law threat

AP magazine requests stops and search data

Police stop and search powers to be cut

Government issues stop and search pledge.

Photographers face wider anti-terror curbs

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