Feeds

Photography rights: Snappers to descend on Scotland Yard

Papping the police shouldn't mean a pop to prison

The essential guide to IT transformation

Comment The individual right to take photographs is being threatened, and distrust of police and government motives in respect of photography is growing. On Monday, the issue will be defiantly, peacefully raised as a mass demonstration, supported by comedian Mark Thomas, converges on New Scotland Yard to assert the right of snappers to take pictures.

The demonstration is a direct response to new powers that the police will acquire on that day under the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008, which many fear will be used to further restrict and harass photographers. This follows a year in which the issue of the individual right to photograph has rarely been out of the news.

The new law makes it an offence to elicit or attempt to elicit information about an individual who is or has been a member of Her Majesty’s forces, a member of any of the intelligence services or a constable, "which is of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism, or publishes or communicates any such information".

In line with the model used in related laws, the offence itself is "strict liability": it is the gathering of information that will be deemed to be the offence, and a defence that the person had a "reasonable excuse for their action" is only allowed after the offence has been charged.

An obvious concern is that the police will quickly decide that any photograph of a serving officer is likely to be useful to a terrorist. This new law would therefore allow them to clamp down on the practice – on which the police have previously voiced concern - of independent filming of police conduct at demonstrations.

As with all such powers, the government claim is that they will only be used where necessary. However, the recent history of stop and search under the Terror Act 2000 gives good reason to be wary of any government claims in that respect. Latest figures suggest that around one in a thousand stops under existing law result in an arrest - this, in turn, strongly supports the view that the police are not using these powers where they have grounds to suspect an individual of a particular offence – but are being used as a general stop-and-search power.

When it comes to photography, the list of "unfortunate incidents" to have taken place in 2008 is well-publicised. Early in the year, the Met made few friends amongst the photographic community by running a poster campaign that urged the public to be on the lookout for suspicious photographers.

Throughout the year, there have been repeated reports of police – more usually community support officers (CSOs) - stopping individuals while taking photographs and demanding explanations from them under existing terror legislation. These stops range from the questionable - the grounds for suspicion appear light to non-existent – to the potentially illegal, where the stop has been accompanied by a seizure of camera or deletion of photographs.

The counter-argument from police and government is that these incidents are exceedingly rare: people continue to take hundreds of millions of photos every year, and while these encounters, when they happen, are clearly intimidating to the individuals concerned, they affect a negligible fraction of the populace.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
'Stop dissing Google or quit': OK, I quit, says Code Club co-founder
And now a message from our sponsors: 'STFU or else'
Ex US cybersecurity czar guilty in child sex abuse website case
Health and Human Services IT security chief headed online to share vile images
Don't even THINK about copyright violation, says Indian state
Pre-emptive arrest for pirates in Karnataka
The police are WRONG: Watching YouTube videos is NOT illegal
And our man Corfield is pretty bloody cross about it
Felony charges? Harsh! Alleged Anon hackers plead guilty to misdemeanours
US judge questions harsh sentence sought by prosecutors
Oz biz regulator discovers shared servers in EPIC FACEPALM
'Not aware' that one IP can hold more than one Website
Apple tried to get a ban on Galaxy, judge said: NO, NO, NO
Judge Koh refuses Samsung ban for the third time
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.