Terrorism police pounce on tourist photographers (update 5.10pm)

July 11, 2011

Police stop photographersPolice officers quiz two tourists on the Albert Embankment on Saturday afternoon. The pair were wrongly suspected of being terrorists and had been stopped under Section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000

Picture: Chris Cheesman

Police stopped and quizzed two tourists on the false suspicion they were terrorists after one was seen taking photographs of the MI6 building at Vauxhall Cross, London on Saturday afternoon.

Two police officers on motorbikes accosted the young men, believed to be from France, at around 4.20pm on Albert Embankment, adjacent to a bus stop and in front of a boat packed full of people enjoying the afternoon sunshine further along the River Thames.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman has this afternoon confirmed to Amateur Photographer that the pair were stopped under Section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

This law requires a police officer to reasonably suspect that a person is a terrorist.

The officers appeared to search the bag of one of the tourists – who were on foot – and view images on the LCD screen of a consumer digital camera, before demanding the men?s personal details and recording these on a police form.

An officer was heard relaying details to a colleague, by radio.

Within minutes, two more officers arrived on the scene, though they did not appear to play any role in the questioning.

The incident – which took place opposite the Park Plaza Riverbank Hotel – was witnessed by Amateur Photographer news editor Chris Cheesman.

An officer was heard to tell one of the men: ?There is no law to stop you taking photographs. You just have to be careful what buildings you take photographs of.?

Police quizzed the pair for at least 15 minutes before allowing the tourists to continue on their journey, towards Lambeth Bridge.

Images of MI6, home to the foreign intelligence service and fictional secret agent James Bond, are available for all to see on the internet, via Google Maps.

Afterwards, the tourists were reluctant to speak about their ordeal, but told Amateur Photographer that they planned to show the snaps of MI6 to friends back home.

There are no signs outside MI6 warning people against taking photographs in the area.

In a statement the Met said that, under the Section 43 anti-terror law, an ‘officer may stop and search a person who he reasonably suspects to be a terrorist to discover whether he has in his possession anything which may constitute evidence that he is a terrorist.

‘This requires an officer to have reasonable grounds to carry out a search.’

The spokesman said that officers were called ‘following reports of two people acting suspiciously on Albert Embankment’.

The Met confirmed that the officers spoke with the men and that no arrests were made.

Today, Home Secretary Theresa May reduced the UK threat level from international terrorism from severe to ‘substantial’.


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