Photography police swoop on innocent tourists

April 16, 2009

An Austrian tourist and his son were left in shock when police demanded they stopped taking pictures of London buses and delete all such images immediately.

Klaus Matzka, 69, from Vienna said police told him it was ‘strictly forbidden’ to take pictures of anything transport related.

Klaus was with his 15-year-old son Loris taking pictures at Walthamstow Central Bus Station when they were approached by two officers at around 3pm on 5 April.

‘Both my son’s and my name, passport numbers and London hotel address were noted in thick paper pads. I have never seen such a thing before,’ said Klaus, adding that the incident has put him off visiting London ever again.

He continued: ‘After that came the worst atrocity I have ever had on a trip in my life. We were forced to delete all pictures we had taken if they contained anything in them with transport – including pictures of fascinating historic station architecture. These deletions were destructions of private property and an encroachment on our privacy.’

The images they were ordered to delete included shots, taken earlier, of the futuristic architecture surrounding Vauxhall Underground and Bus Stations.

Klaus told Amateur Photographer that it was not made clear whether the police action was in connection with counter-terrorism measures, nor which type of forms police had filled out, as Klaus was not given copies.

The retired TV cameraman said he was so shocked by their behaviour that he forgot to ask for the officers’ badge numbers or names.

The Metropolitan Police said it was ‘struggling’ to find copies of the forms completed by the officers but pledged to look into the matter.

A Met spokesman told us: ‘It is not our intention to prevent tourists from taking photos.’

He accepted that officers have no right to delete photographs.

The spokesman said police are supposed to follow strict guidance which states: ‘Once the images are recorded we have no power to delete or confiscate them without a court order, even if they contain damaging or useful evidence?’

He said it is likely that the pair were stopped under the Met’s ‘stop and account’ policy.

The spokesman added: ‘While officers in these heightened [security] times are expected to be vigilant, that’s why we have ‘stop and account’. This is where we talk to people to find out what they are doing and use this as a starting point to see if anything untoward is going on?’

It is not clear whether the officers were fully-trained police or police community support officers.

Klaus and his son were both using Canon Digital Ixus compact cameras and neither was using a tripod.

Klaus said the incident ‘killed’ the good mood he was in during the trip, his 35th visit to the UK capital.


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