Photographers can expect to be stopped and quizzed by police if they are seen taking pictures of officers, according to guidance published by London’s Metropolitan Police.
The advice, which the Met issued on its website in response to ‘regular debate’ surrounding photography in public, states: ‘It should ordinarily be considered inappropriate to use Section 58a [Section 76 of the Terrorism Act 2008] to arrest people photographing police officers in the course of normal policing activities, including protests, as without more, there is no link to terrorism.’
It adds: ‘There is, however, nothing preventing officers asking questions of an individual who appears to be taking photographs of someone who is or has been a member of Her Majesty’s Forces, Intelligence Services or a constable.’
The Met says that any officer ‘making an arrest’ under Section 58a must be able to demonstrate ‘a reasonable suspicion that the information was of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism’.
The advice also states that police have ‘the power to view digital images contained in mobile telephones or cameras’ carried by a person searched under Section 44 or Section 43 of the Terrorism Act.
At the time of writing it was unclear whether the guidance has been endorsed by the Home Office. The Met and the Home Office has yet to clarify this.
Among those questioning the Met’s advice is press photographer Mark Vallée who said photographers will remain ‘deeply concerned’ about use of the terror law to stop legitimate photographs of police officers at public protests.
In an article published today on the Guardian website he quotes a lawyer who points out that the advice does not take into account images that may be ‘protected journalistic material’.
He writes: ‘Did the MPS seek legal advice before they distributed this “advice”? Because, rather than clarifying the Met’s position, it looks set to cause yet more confusion.’
In March, the Home Office asked Amateur Photographer (AP) to help draw up guidance for police officers.
Neither the Home Office nor the police consulted AP before the Met issued the guidance which has appeared on the Met website.
For details visit http://www.met.police.uk/about/photography.htm