Police officers stopped and searched an amateur photographer in East London under the mistaken belief that he was a terrorist, New Scotland Yard has confirmed.
The student from Pakistan, who does not want to be named, said he was stopped under Section 43 of the Terrorism Act, a law which can only be enforced if a police officer ?reasonably suspects? a person to be a terrorist.
?I had recently got my first DSLR and on a sunny day in East London I went to the end of my street to photograph gulls that were flying around,? said the 21-year-old photo enthusiast who lives in Stratford E15.
?Out of nowhere a few undercover men came to me and asked what I was photographing and I immediately showed them my pictures of the birds.
?They told me it was because there was a school across the road and I might be considered to be a terrorist because I was taking pictures near the school and that if I was a bird watcher I should try going to the countryside.?
Officers searched the would-be photographer before realising that he did not pose a threat and let him go.
?I must admit [the officers] were OK in their treatment but the incident has scared me off taking my camera out and taking pictures,? said the man who left the UK for a week?s holiday in Ireland shortly afterwards.
?As an international student, from an under-developed country, who knows what hell may break loose if I’m seen taking pictures again?? he added.
The student said he moved to London in September last year.
Section 43 of the Terrorism Act is a more clearly defined anti-terror law than the recently-scrapped Section 44 which allowed police to stop and search someone without reasonable grounds for suspicion.
Section 43 states: ‘A constable may stop and search a person whom he reasonably suspects to be a terrorist to discover whether he has in his possession anything which may constitute evidence that he is a terrorist.’
The incident took place on 3 February, barely a week after the Government published its review of counter-terrorism laws.
Page 21 of the Review of Counter-Terrorism and Security Powers states: ?The power to conduct a search under Section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000 can only be exercised if the constable reasonably suspects the person in question to be a terrorist.?
A Metropolitan Police spokesman confirmed to Amateur Photographer that the man was stopped under Section 43 but was not able to comment further until speaking with the officers concerned later today.
Last year we reported how a photographer was stopped and searched in Trafalgar Square under the same law.
Police said at the time: ‘Although taking photos in itself is not an issue, if an officer witnesses what they deem to be suspicious behaviour then they are justified in carrying out a stop.?
The news comes a day after we reported how a photographer was banned from taking pictures of the London Eye.