Picture: Photographers campaign outside Scotland Yard, before the Government announced its counter-terrorism review Credit: Chris Cheesman
The Metropolitan Police has refused to reveal how many photographers it stops under anti-terror legislation – despite highly publicised criticism that forced a change in the law – on grounds of cost.
Since the Government scrapped the ?no suspicion? Section 44 stop and search law in July 2010, there continue to be cases of photographers being stopped under Section 43 of the Terrorism Act.
Unlike Section 44, Section 43 requires an officer to ?reasonably suspect? a person of being a terrorist, before conducting a stop and search to discover whether they are in possession of anything that may constitute evidence they are a terrorist.
In a Freedom of Information (FOI) request filed last month, Amateur Photographer (AP) asked the Met to disclose the number of stops made by police under Section 43, in relation to photography, from January?June 2010, and the figure for the 14-month period since July 2010, when the Government abolished the use of Section 44.
However, the Met rejected the FOI request on grounds of ?cost?, telling the magazine that its database fails to record whether a person had been taking photographs when they were stopped.
In a statement accompanying the FOI rejection, the Met told AP: ?The stops database, which is the system that is utilized to record all stops and searches, categorises the reason for the search but does not provide the depth of detail to determine whether the person searched was a photographer or non photographer.?
The Met added: ?It is feasible that the fact that the person was a photographer or in the act of taking photographs may be mentioned within the search grounds, but it would require a manual search of all stop-and-search forms which are located at each of the 32 Boroughs in the Metropolitan Police area.?
Earlier this year, a photographer was left fuming when officers stopped and searched him under Section 43 of the Terrorism Act while he was photographing birds.
Police said the student ? who was from Pakistan ? happened to be near a Territorial Army (TA) base in East London.
AP witnessed a similar incident during the summer, on Albert Embankment, involving two French tourists.
The Met said officers completed 550,000 stop-and-search forms over the past year and that the cost of manually collating the data would exceed the ?£450? limit set for such requests under current regulations.
?This represents the estimated cost of one person spending 18 hours [at a rate of £25 per hour] in determining whether the MPS holds the information, and locating, retrieving and extracting the information,? continued the Met?s statement.
Police officers quiz two tourists on London’s Albert Embankment on 9 July 2011. The pair had been stopped under Section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000
Picture: Chris Cheesman