Photographer quizzed by ‘armed’ police near Bank of America (update)

December 8, 2009

Anti-terrorism police have swooped on a photographer in the City of London after he refused to give his personal details to a security guard at a building nearby.


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Police questioned architectural photographer Grant Smith near the Bank of America building on Cheapside, London EC1 this morning.

Smith said 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 ‘Merrill Lynch’ building, near to where he was taking photos, not far from St Paul’s Cathedral.

‘Five or six police officers leapt out of their cars and came marching toward me… It’s absurd. I’ve got a backpack and a tripod,’ Smith told Amateur Photographer.

The officers told Smith they have powers, under the Terrorism Act, to search him after they received a report of an ‘aggressive male’ who had refused to leave the building’s reception area.

Smith, who is from Australia, said that he merely declined to provide identification to the security guards, telling them: ‘I am not obliged to show it to you. I am taking photographs. I am not doing anything wrong. I am in a public space.’

Smith said police then told him they would search him under Section 44 or the Terrorism Act.

The photographer was told he was being searched because he was not co-operating. ‘Under the power we have we will physically search you unless you give us the details we need, such as your address,’ an officer told him.

Smith told us that he then co-operated and supplied details for the completion of a police ‘stop and account’ form.

‘He was the biggest policeman I have ever seen. I just gave them the information but I said “this is such a complete nonsense, basically just because I had failed the attitude test.”‘

The photographer said this is the fifth time he has been stopped under anti-terrorism laws, all as a result of initial contact with a security guard. ‘They are just bullies,’ he said.

Smith, who was wearing a badge stating ‘I’m a photographer not a terrorist’, had been using a Nikon D3x professional-level DSLR camera.

The incident took place just days after the photographer took part in a protest over the protection of rights to take pictures in public.

City of London Police have yet to comment on the incident.

Smith believes the officers were armed but this has yet to be confirmed.

The news follows a media frenzy over photographers’ ongoing campaign to defend their right to take pictures in public, which led to extensive coverage in newspapers, on TV and on radio last week.

The issue was thrust into the public eye largely as a result of two recent high profile cases that prompted the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) to warn forces nationwide not to use anti-terror laws to stop photographers.


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