Increasingly photographers in the UK are increasingly finding themselves running foul of police, security personnel, and even members of the public
The reason? For taking pictures in public, legally. All in the name of the law. And terrorism.
So why the suspicion?
The terrorist attacks over the last number of years has only served to increase, or even reinforce, the mistrust we have of each other, whether its based on race, religion, or even what camera you have. Anyone who is seen to be suspicious or acting suspiciously is suspected of doing no good.
The police often have a tough job keeping society safe, and the Terrorism Act in the UK was supposed to help combat terrorist activity. Unfortunately, there have been cases where it has been misinterpreted and misread by police, security personnel and the public towards photographers who are legally and legitimately taking photos in public.
Even the Met Police Commissioner John Stephenson recently admitted the police aren’t always reading the Act correctly.
Under UK law, it is legal for members of the public to take photos in a public place. This includes buildings and people, including children (albeit, there are societal mores towards taking photos of children due to paedophilia). The terrorist legislation does not change this right.
The police can only stop someone if they suspect someone of being a terrorist, not because they are a photographer.
While police do have the power to view digital images on mobile phones or cameras, they do not have the power to delete digital images or destroy film at any point during a search. Deletion or destruction may only take place following seizure if there is a lawful power (ie court order) that permits such deletion or destruction.
So, what can photographers do?
This is the £1 million pound question. Ideally, most photographers, if not all, would like to be able to get on with their photography without fear that they will be arrested and / or their photographs will be destroyed.
When dealing with any confrontation, whether it’s with police, security personnel or the public, it probably would be best to be respectful. If questioned by police, answer any reasonable question politely. It’s best to use common sense.