Stopped photographer expresses doubt over police chief pledge (update)
December 15, 2009
Page One: Terror chief’s pledge to photographers
The head of counter terrorism at the Metropolitan Police has re-issued guidelines to officers, saying that they must use ‘common sense’ when approaching photographers.
The move follows widespread criticism of police policy under anti-terror legislation.
The Met’s Assistant Commissioner John Yates has re-released guidance that already appears on the Met’s website, to ‘all 32 borough commanders’.
Yates said the Met risks losing public support if officers use their powers in situations that ‘most reasonable people would consider inappropriate’.
However, for the first time the guidance will be distributed via the Met’s internal ‘Intranet’ website which is accessible to 55,000 officers and staff.
The guidance will also be relayed to officers directly via an ‘internal briefing’ prior to them patrolling London’s streets, according to a spokesman for the force.
The spokesman said the Met hopes that by ‘bullet pointing’ the guidance (see below), it will be clearer to officers who are unsure of their powers under the Terrorism Act when it comes to photography.
Yates, assistant commissioner of Specialist Operations said: ‘People have complained that they are being stopped when taking photographs in public places. Those stops are being recorded under Stop and Account and under Section 44 of the TACT [Terrorism Act].
‘The complaints have included allegations that people have been told that they cannot photograph certain buildings, that they cannot photograph police officers or PCSOs and that taking photographs of buildings is, itself, suspicious.’
While Yates said staff must remain ‘vigilant at all times in dealing with suspicious behaviour,’ he stressed staff must also be clear that:
? There is no restriction on people taking photographs in public places or of any building other than in very exceptional circumstances
? There is no prohibition on photographing front-line uniform staff
? The act of taking a photograph in itself is not usually sufficient to carry out a stop
Yates added: ‘Unless there is a very good reason, people taking photographs should not be stopped.’
Yates told the Met’s officers and staff: ‘An enormous amount of concern has been generated about these matters. You will find below what I hope is clear and unequivocal guidance on what you can and cannot do in respect of these sections. This complements and reinforces previous guidance that has been issued.
‘You are reminded that in any instance where you do have reasonable suspicion then you should use your power under Section 42 TACT 2000 and account for it in the normal way.
These are important yet intrusive powers. They form a vital part of our overall tactics in deterring and detecting terrorist attacks. We must use these powers wisely. Public confidence in our ability to do so rightly depends upon your common sense.
‘We risk losing support when they are used in circumstances that most people would consider inappropriate.’
But architectural photographer Grant Smith, whose bag was searched after he refused to identify himself in the City of London last week, is far from confident that officers will follow the rules. ‘Of course it is positive but I remain cynical about how they choose to interpret it on the ground. They had to react after the issue developed such a groundswell.’
The public can refuse to supply their personal details, unless they are driving a car.
But, added Grant: ‘I wouldn’t really like to put it to the test.’
Watch a recent More4 News report HERE
Page Two: The Met’s Guidance in full
Section 43 Terrorism Act 2000
Section 43 is a stop and search power which can be used if a police officer has reasonable suspicion that a person may be a terrorist.
Any police officer can:
– Stop and search a person who they reasonably suspect to be a terrorist to discover whether they have in their possession anything which may constitute evidence that they are a terrorist.
– View digital images contained in mobile telephones or cameras carried by the person searched to discover whether the images constitute evidence they are involved in terrorism.
– Seize and retain any article found during the search which the officer reasonably suspects may constitute evidence that the person is a terrorist, including any mobile telephone or camera containing such evidence.
The power, in itself, does not permit a vehicle to be stopped and searched.
Section 44 Terrorism Act 2000
Section 44 is a stop and search power which can be used by virtue of a person being in a designated area.
Where an authority is in place, police officers in uniform, or PCSOs IF ACCOMPANIED by a police officer can:
– Stop and search any person; reasonable grounds to suspect an individual is a terrorist are not required. (PCSOs cannot search the person themselves, only their property.)
– View digital images contained in mobile telephones or cameras carried by a person searched, provided that the viewing is to determine whether the images contained in the camera or mobile telephone are connected with terrorism.
– Seize and retain any article found during the search which the officer reasonably suspects is intended to be used in connection with terrorism.
Officers do not have the power to delete digital images, destroy film or to prevent photography in a public place under either power. Equally, officers are also reminded that under these powers they must not access text messages, voicemails or emails.
Where it is clear that the person being searched under Sections 43 or 44 is a journalist, officers should exercise caution before viewing images as images acquired or created for the purposes of journalism may constitute journalistic material and should not be viewed without a Court Order.
If an officer’s rationale for effecting a stop is that the person is taking photographs as a means of hostile reconnaissance, then it should be borne in mind that this should be under the Section 43 power. Officers should not default to the Section 44 power in such instances simply because the person is within one of the designated areas.
Watch a recent More4 News report HERE