Photographers have cautiously welcomed the Government?s counter-terrorism review but raised doubts that it will prevent them being stopped when taking pictures in public.
Award-winning architectural photographer Grant Smith, who has been stopped numerous times while taking pictures in The City under anti-terror laws, said the counter-terrorism review was an ?important step?.
He told Amateur Photographer: ?A number of issues have been addressed in the consultation: stop-and-search without suspicion; overzealous security guards.
?However, many of these agencies operate with no public accountability. Thus these new laws may have little effect on photographers on the street? The lack of trust that authorities and the state have for citizens is plainly evident.
?I don?t believe photographers will feel any freer to operate without suspicion, nor assume their activities will not go unchallenged by police and other uniformed authorities.?
John Toner, freelance organiser at the National Union of Journalists, welcomed the planned restriction on stop-and-search.
?However, we will not be able to judge the effect of the proposed new law until it is put into practice,? he told us.
?A substantial reduction in the harassment of photographers would be an improvement but, naturally, we would like to see a complete end to people being stopped simply because they are carrying cameras.?
Toner said he was also ‘disappointed? to see that Section 58A of the Terrorism Act will remain on the statute books.
The British Journal of Photography (BJP), which has campaigned on this issue alongside Amateur Photographer and other bodies, said the review ?falls short of our expectations?.
BJP?s News and Online editor Olivier Laurent told us: ?Police officers will be given new stop-and-search powers which, as we?ve seen in the past, could be abused if these officers don?t receive the right training.
?Recent cases, as reported by AP and BJP have shown there is still a belief among police forces and security personnel that photographing in a public place is a suspicious act.
?We look forward to the new legislation and guidance and call on all photographic organisations to help raise awareness among police forces and the photographic community, of photographers? rights.?
Photo rights campaigner Mark Singleton, editor of website SceneThat – and who took part in talks with Home Office officials last year – said Section 44 had been used inappropriately against ?decent, law-abiding members of the public?.
He added: ?Whilst we would have welcomed some additional, specific, changes to the raft of counter-terrorism legislation, we believe that the proposed changes strike a better balance between civil liberties and the need to counter the threat from terrorism.?
Singleton also applauded the call for improved Home Office guidance for police officers – to prevent them abusing anti-terror powers.
He added: ?We also note that the review specifically mentions strengthening guidance and training for security guards and hope that the industry will take up the challenge.?