Photographers welcome Home Office terror talks
October 4, 2010
Photographers gathered outside New Scotland Yard on 4 July to mark government changes to Section 44 of the Terrorism Act
Picture credit: Chris Cheesman
Photographers have hailed as ?very positive? recent talks held with Home Office officials as part of the Government?s review of anti-terrorism legislation.
?We had the opportunity to talk about issues relating to anti-terrorism and security legislation that regularly affect photographers,? said Mark Singleton from SceneThat, a photography rights campaigning website.
The meeting, held last month, was chaired by Lord Macdonald who is overseeing the review of anti-terror laws.
Photographic organisations represented at the talks, along with Amateur Photographer, included the RPS, NUJ and the BFP.
?The meeting was very constructive and there was a sense that our issues were listened to and taken on board? it explored the use of Sections 44 and 58A [of the Terrorism Act] and discussed future options and suggestions?? added Singleton.
Photographers also raised concerns about police guidance and training, the behaviour of private security guards and Section 43 of the Terrorism Act which only allows people to be stopped and searched if a police officer suspects them of being a terrorist.
A BFP [Bureau of Freelance Photographers] spokesman said: ?Lord Macdonald and the senior civil servants present appeared to fully appreciate the difficulties that photographers had found themselves in over the past few years as police, PCSOs and security personnel increasingly targeted anyone with a camera as inherently suspect.
?It was well understood that the police have been enabled, even encouraged, in this by the broadly drawn terms of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act.?
In the summer, the Government cut back police power to use the controversial Section 44 stop-and-search rule following a long-running campaign by photography organisations, kicked off by Amateur Photographer (AP) magazine several years ago.
Section 44 – recently overhauled – allowed officers to stop a person without reasonable grounds for suspicion, while Section 58A – introduced in February last year – makes it a potential offence to photograph a police officer.
In August, Home Secretary Theresa May said the use of counter-terrorism legislation in relation to photography would be reviewed as a ‘priority’ as part of a rapid overhaul of anti-terrorism laws.
She added: ‘I want a counter-terrorism regime that is proportionate, focused and transparent. We must ensure that in protecting public safety, the powers we need to deal with terrorism are in keeping with Britain’s traditions of freedom and fairness.
‘We will look at the evidence presented to us and where it is clear that legislation needs to be amended or powers need to be rolled back, we will do so.’
The results of the anti-terrorism review are due to be published in the autumn, and changes to anti-terror laws will be introduced as part of the Freedom Bill.
The Home Office declined to comment further when contacted by AP this morning, other than to say that it will report back to Parliament in the next ‘6-8 weeks’ regarding the response to the counter-terrorism review and any outcomes.
A civil servant who organised last month’s Home Office meeting told attendees: ?We will publish a report by Lord Macdonald on the conduct of the review and a document summarising the consultation and main points raised by contributors.?