Soon-to-be-introduced anti-terrorism laws will not increase police powers to stop photographers because the rules are already laid out in existing legislation, the government insists.
The Home Office was responding to reports that photographers face a greater risk of being stopped in a public place under the Terrorism Act 2008 which is due to come into force on 16 February.
The revised legislation adds a clause that covers the eliciting of information about a person who is, or has been, a member of ?Her Majesty?s forces?, ?intelligence services? or a ?constable? (Section 58A).
This sparked concern that photographers taking pictures of police officers may face a greater likelihood of being stopped under the Act.
However, the law does not make it more likely that photographers will be stopped in the first place, according to the Home Office.
This is because, under the current Terrorism Act 2000, it is already an offence to ?collect or make a record of information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism?.
Such a ?record? can include ?photographs? and, by implication, covers photographing police officers, according to a Home Office spokesman.
Speaking to Amateur Photographer the spokesman added: ?We don?t intend to criminalise people for taking photos of police constables whether inadvertently or not. There has to be a criminal activity associated with it.?
He cited a photograph of a ?police station? as one such ?activity?.
The spokesman told us that it is ?very unlikely? that a photographer will be stopped while he or she is taking a photo of a police officer.
And he pointed out that the new Act will not change the Section 44 Stop and Search rule which gives police the right to stop a member of the public without grounds for suspicion.
The Home Office adds that for an ?offence to be committed? under section 58A the photo would have to raise ?reasonable suspicion that it was intended to be used to provide practical assistance to terrorist organisations?.
Picture credit: Tony Miles