Photographers react to new terrorism search law
April 1, 2011
Earlier this month the Government handed police new powers to stop photographers and other people in areas where they suspect an act of terrorism will take place.
The Terrorism Act 2000 (Remedial) Order 2011, which came into force on 18 March, effectively replaces the highly controversial ? now abandoned – Section 44 stop-and-search power which allowed police to stop members of the public without suspicion.
But isn’t this just the return of the controversial stop-and-search law in new clothes?
The move follows the Government?s counter-terrorism review and proposals outlined as part of the Protection of Freedoms Bill.
Home Secretary Theresa May said she pushed through the new Section 47A rule without it being approved by Parliament, in the ?interests of national security?.
Though May claims the amendment represents a ?more targeted and proportionate power?, photographers remain sceptical.
?This emergency measure brings back stop-and-search powers that could impact on photographers and journalists right to report and the right of a citizen to take a picture in a public place,? said campaigners at I?m a Photographer Not a Terrorist!
Architectural photographer Grant Smith added: ?What is quite apparent in the application of this remedial power is that stop and search is still being deployed as a preventative measure against terrorism.
?This is despite the fact that no stop-and-search detentions under Section 44 resulted in any terrorist prosecutions.?
New police rules
Police chiefs will be able to authorise their officers to use the new power without first seeking approval from the Home Secretary.
Instead they must ?inform the Secretary of State of it as soon as reasonably practicable?.
The power ceases to be effective only if the Home Secretary has not confirmed its use within 48 hours.
Authorisations can last no longer than 14 days.
And police officers will be told to follow a new ?search powers code? to be drawn up by the Home Secretary.
Officers who don?t abide by the code will not be liable for any civil or criminal lawsuit but the code will be admissible as evidence in any future legal proceedings, the Home Secretary said.
Bureau of Freelance Photographers spokesman John Tracy said it is too early to judge the implications of the move.
?If, as stated, the new stop and search is restricted to specific places/situations for only short periods ? and is governed by the ?robust? code of practice we are promised ? then it should be a definite step forward from the situation that existed under Section 44,? he told us.
The Home Office says a uniformed constable may only stop and search a pedestrian if a ?senior police officer? has first authorised its use for a specified area on the basis that they ?reasonably suspect an act of terrorism will take place?.
An officer will be able to search ?anything carried by the pedestrian?.
A senior police officer is defined as one of at least the rank of ?commander? in the City of London and Metropolitan Police forces. In areas outside the capital an officer with a rank of ?assistant chief constable? or above would need to sanction it.
A constable on the beat has the power to stop and search whether or not he or she reasonably suspects that the person is carrying anything that may constitute evidence that they are a terrorist, adds the remedial order laid before the House of Commons and House of Lords on 17 March.
The Government stresses that Parliament will have the chance to ?fully scrutinise? the new power during the passage of the Protection of Freedoms Bill.
The new power replaces the ?discredited, ineffective and unfair ?no suspicion? stop and search powers provided by sections 44 to 47 of the Terrorism Act 2000,? the Home Office said in a statement.