UK Liberty

Terrographer or photoist?

The BBC:

Misplaced fears about terror, privacy and child protection are preventing amateur photographers from enjoying their hobby, are causing police to IMAGINE new powers, say campaigners says UK Liberty.

Phil Smith thought ex-EastEnder Letitia Dean turning on the Christmas lights in Ipswich would make a good snap for his collection.

The 49-year-old started by firing off a few shots of the warm-up act on stage. But before the main attraction showed up, Mr Smith was challenged by a police officer who asked if he had a licence for the camera.

A licence for a camera?!

I wonder if Suffolk Police can tell us how to apply for an imaginary licence!

After explaining he didn’t need one, he was taken down a side-street for a formal “stop and search”,

Shame the BBC doesn’t report the grounds for the search.  Phil Smith should have been given a “stop-and-search” form with the reasons for the search written on it.

then asked to delete the photos and ordered not take any more. So he slunk home with his camera.

Austin Mitchell MP has tabled a motion [EDM 1155] in the Commons that has drawn on cross-party support from 150 other MPs, calling on the Home Office and the police to educate officers about photographers’ rights.

Mr Mitchell, himself a keen photographer, was challenged twice, once by a lock-keeper while photographing a barge on the Leeds to Liverpool canal and once on the beach at Cleethorpes.

Clearly highly suspicious activity.  After all, the photographs would have allowed him to magically put bombs on the barge or beach and blow up innocent children.

“There’s a general alarm about terrorism and about paedophiles, two heady cocktails, and police and PCSOs [police community support officers] and wardens and authorities generally seem to be worried about this.”

Photographers have every right to take photos in a public place, he says, and it’s crazy for officials to challenge them when there are so many security cameras around

Well, we can trust them.

and so many people now have cameras on phones. But it’s usually inexperienced officers responsible.

Surely part of their training should be, “Don’t imagine you have powers that we haven’t told you about”.

“If a decision is made to crack down on photographers, it should be made at the top. It’s a general officiousness and a desire to interfere with people going about their legitimate business.”

Steve Carroll was another hapless victim of this growing suspicion. Police seized the film from his camera while he was out taking snaps in a Hull shopping centre. They later returned it but a police investigation found they had acted correctly

The police investigated themselves and they concluded they acted correctly?  Trebles all round!

because he appeared to be taking photographs covertly.

I doubt it’s illegal to even covertly take a photograph!  Perhaps suspicious, mind, but a simple, polite conversation could establish what’s really happening.

Child protection has been an issue for years, says Stewart Gibson of the Bureau of Freelance Photographers, but what’s happened recently is a rather odd interpretation of privacy and heightened fears about terrorism. [um and IMAGINING they have powers they don’t really have]

“They [police, park wardens, security guards] seem to think you can’t take pictures of people in public places. It’s reached a point where everyone in the photographic world has become so concerned we’re mounting campaigns and trying to publicise this.”

It seems to be increasing, he says.

“There’s a great deal of paranoia around but the police are on alert for anything that vaguely resembles terrorism. It’s difficult because the more professional a photographer, paradoxically, the more likely they are to be stopped or questioned.

Indeed, I have heard of people being stopped if they setup a camera on a tripod while people without tripods are allowed to snap away.  Quite bizarre.

“If people were using photos for terrorism purposes they would be using the smallest camera possible.”

More generally, I’m concerned about the number of officials imagining (have I said this enough yet?) powers they don’t have, such as Nottingham social services taking a baby without a court order, or Newham Community Constabulary abusing powers they aren’t entitled to use.

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2 Responses

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  1. David Mery said, on April 18, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    This is an old story. It was reported in January in the Press Gazette: http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=1&storycode=39828&c=1

    > Clearly highly suspicious activity.

    The Met is telling us that any non conforming behaviour is indeed suspect and should be reported: http://gizmonaut.net/blog/uk/counter_terrorism_ad_campaign_2008.html

    br -d

  2. curly said, on April 19, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    Home Office Minister re-asserts photographers rights.


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