Police photography stops escape official figures (update)

November 2, 2011

The number photographers stopped by anti-terror police is not specified in Government figures because police are still not obliged to log this data on their computer records.

Last month the Metropolitan Police rejected Amateur Photographer (AP)?s Freedom of Information (FOI) request for the number of stops made by police under Section 43 of the Terrorism Act, in relation to photography in public, from January?June 2010.

AP also demanded the figure for the 14-month period since July 2010, when the Government abolished the use of Section 44.

Since the Government scrapped the controversial ‘no suspicion’ Section 44 law in July 2010, there continue to be cases of photographers being stopped under Section 43 of the Terrorism Act.

But the Met rejected the FOI request on grounds of ‘cost’, saying it would be too expensive to manually check each stop-and-search form where this level of detail may have been recorded by an officer.

Following the refusal, AP asked the Met to explain why such details are not recorded on its computer system in the first place.

In response, Inspector Andy Walker from the Met?s Stop & Search Team, said that the ?Search Codes? available to officers do not include one specific to photography.

Walker pointed out that there is a code specific to ?Terrorism s.43? but he added: ?There is no code which is specific to photographers or camera equipment.?

The other nine codes are: Stolen Property; Drugs; Firearms; Offensive Weapons; Pointed/bladed articles; Going Equipped; Other Power; Anticipated Violence; and Articles to cause criminal damage.

?The paper [stop-and-search] Form 5090 is an original document which can be produced as evidence in legal (criminal or civil) proceedings,? Walker wrote in a letter received by AP this morning.

?The database on which searches are recorded is purely an analytical tool for capturing statistics – this enables the MPS to respond to requests for data from the Home Office and other interested parties.

?It also enables the MPS to publish monthly stop-and-search data to the public via the Stop and Search Monitoring Report.?

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