Posts Tagged ‘Section 44’

Every day hundreds of thousands of innocent fotoLibra photographers are hauled off the streets of London and incarcerated in foul, dank dungeons with no hope of release for simply snapping a cop brutalizing an illegal immigrant, or some other harmless pastime.

OK, that may be a mild exaggeration but it’s nothing to what might happen if [insert name of your most loathed political party here] comes to power.

In the event of this happening — or in any event — fotoLibra members might like to read the Metropolitan Police’s official line on taking photographs in public places.

It is not what the scaremongers would have you believe. In general, you’re allowed to do pretty much what you like. And the police have NO POWER AT ALL to delete your photographs.

All the same, if you’re taking photographs in London, better print it out and keep it in your camera bag.

That’s the big headline on the front page of The Independent today, above a picture of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Right. This stems from a general misunderstanding by the police of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which is reproduced in full at the end of this blog. Armed with this sloppily drafted legislation, the police can effectively stop anyone anywhere and question them about their activities, as long as it’s within an area specified by a police officer of or above the rank of assistant chief constable. After July 7, 2005, that effectively meant Great Britain. It certainly includes every railway station in the country, and over a hundred areas in London. This does NOT mean that photography is forbidden in these places.

What it does mean is that ordinary pro and amateur photographers have frequently been stopped and searched by police simply for taking photographs within these “specified areas”. If the perp is hidden in robes, has a long beard and has a hook for a hand they might have a point, but in the interests of equality they seem to be stopping everyone with a camera and tripod (hand-held is for wimps, we always say).

The Independent cites instances of photographers being told to delete images they have taken of trains in Wales (they are NOT permitted to demand that), being arrested for photographing two police officers after photographing a fish and chip shop in Chatham, being stopped and searched after photographing St. Paul’s Cathedral; there are many more tales.

The British Journal of Photography has been running a campaign to raise awareness of this situation among the public and law enforcement officers. I doubt that many police officers read The Independent but they might glance curiously at the front page headline if in the newsagents. But this is front-page news, tremendous publicity for the cause. We at fotoLibra fully support the BJP’s campaign, even their slightly weak slogan “I’m not a terrorist. I’m a photographer.”

The more people know about the absurd over-zealous — and illegal — applications of this well-intentioned but muddled law, the better. Support the BJP’s campaign!

Here is the full text of Section 44. Why not print it out and keep it with you? Note there is no mention of police having powers to demand the deletion of images, nor does the legislation appear to apply to horse riders (be careful with the tripod on your horse’s back).

Power to stop and search

44

Authorisations

(1) An authorisation under this subsection authorises any constable in uniform to stop a vehicle in an area or at a place specified in the authorisation and to search—

(a) the vehicle;

(b) the driver of the vehicle;

(c) a passenger in the vehicle;

(d) anything in or on the vehicle or carried by the driver or a passenger.

(2) An authorisation under this subsection authorises any constable in uniform to stop a pedestrian in an area or at a place specified in the authorisation and to search—

(a) the pedestrian;

(b) anything carried by him.

(3) An authorisation under subsection (1) or (2) may be given only if the person giving it considers it expedient for the prevention of acts of terrorism.

(4) An authorisation may be given—

(a) where the specified area or place is the whole or part of a police area outside Northern Ireland other than one mentioned in paragraph (b) or (c), by a police officer for the area who is of at least the rank of assistant chief constable;

(b) where the specified area or place is the whole or part of the metropolitan police district, by a police officer for the district who is of at least the rank of commander of the metropolitan police;

(c) where the specified area or place is the whole or part of the City of London, by a police officer for the City who is of at least the rank of commander in the City of London police force;

(d) where the specified area or place is the whole or part of Northern Ireland, by a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary who is of at least the rank of assistant chief constable.

(5) If an authorisation is given orally, the person giving it shall confirm it in writing as soon as is reasonably practicable.