Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Photography in Public: a government review

The new government in the UK is changing the line taken on photography in public places. 

For those of us who like taking reference photographs, there have been serious concerns for some time about the use of Anti-Terrorism Law to prevent people taking photographs in public places - particularly in Central London. 

This is the Home Office's current statement on Photography and Counter-Terrorism legislation.  This statement is likely to be changed as a result of the review.  It starts....
This circular has been produced to clarify counter-terrorism legislation in relation to photography in a public place. Concerns have been raised that sections of the Terrorism Act 2000 are being used to stop people taking photographs - whether this is photographs of buildings or people - and that cameras are being confiscated during such searches.
The legislation, which allows police officers to stop and search people without grounds for suspicion, has been heavily criticised by many, including photographers.

Today the Home Office has announced that there is to be a rapid review of key counter-terrorism and security powers. The review will look at what counter-terrorism powers and measures could be rolled back in order to restore the balance of civil liberties and counter-terrorism powers.  This includes stop and search powers in section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 and the use of terrorism legislation in relation to photography. The findings of the review are due to be reported in the autumn.

The Home Secretary, Theresa May said that
National security is the first duty of government but we are also committed to reversing the substantial erosion of civil liberties. 
Prior to this:
  • The government responded to a petition to disband a new law introduced in February 2009
Contrary to some media and public misconception, section 58A does not make it illegal to photograph a police officer, military personnel or member of the intelligence services.
Photorestrict - epetition response
  • at the end of June, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) refused to overturn its earlier ruling that police use of Section 44 stop-and-search powers is illegal, after the former Government had appealed the decision.   Police use of Section 44 had initially been ruled unlawful by the ECHR in January. 
The role of photographers in fighting the abuse of powers

Many of these changes are coming about because of a long-running campaign by Amateur Photographer magazine against the abuse of powers which has been taken up by other photographic bodies and publications.

Photography in Public - A Brief Guide is a useful YouTube video of the difficulties that photographers have encountered within the context of current legislation and the practices of the Metropolitan Police and Community Support Officers

This month's edition of Amateur Photographer is giving away a very useful free lens cloth which summarises photographer's rights.

Other resources

I also noticed a while back  that Karin Jurick (Different Strokes from Different Folks) has an invaluable inventory of links to references with respect to photographing in public

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