City Police still using Terror Act to bother photographers
Just when you thought it was safe to go snapping...
Just when you thought it was safe to go snapping... City of London Police prove they still haven't got the memo.
Yesterday, it was the turn of Grant Smith to feel the heavy hand of the law. Smith is a professional photographer. On Monday he was looking for a location on London Wall appropriate to a portrait of one of the architects responsible for the City’s changing skyline. He went to One Aldermanbury Square, where an altercation with a security guard followed.
The security guard asserted that Smith could not take photos of the building. Smith pointed out that the security guard was wrong. The police were called.
Initially, Smith was relieved: on a previous occasion, the intervention of the local police had led to support for Smith and he had been allowed to carry on with his job.
Not this time. According to Smith, four officers arrived, followed by a police van with flashing lights. He was detained, he claims, under Section 44(2) of the Terrorism Act 2000.
This controversial law permits police to stop any individual for the purpose of preventing terrorism. While police officers acting under this section do not require reasonable grounds for a search, they may do so where there are grounds for suspecting the photography is linked to terrorist activity. That said, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has in recent months made it clear that photographers are not fair game for random stop and search.
In a strongly worded statement, Chief Constable Andy Trotter, chairman of ACPO's media advisory group stated: "Everyone ... has a right to take photographs and film in public places. Taking photographs ... is not normally cause for suspicion and there are no powers prohibiting the taking of photographs, film or digital images in a public place."
This message appears not to have been passed on to City of London Police, who continue to use s44 in gung ho fashion to hunt down evil photographers, long after other forces have started to adopt a gentler approach to the subject.
Despite Smith explaining to PC374, who took the lead in what followed, that he was taking photos as part of his job, the police were not satisfied. According to Smith, PC374 said: "The very fact you were here at all is the reason we’ve stopped you."
He says he was then restrained forcibly by another officer, PC29, while the first officer went through his pockets, removing his camera and mobile phone. Smith’s description of events suggest the police action was intrusive and intimidatory, with officers cheered by his discomfiture, both mental and physical.
He claims: "PC  went through my pannier, flipping through personal notebooks, gingerly peeking in a plastic bag that contained a towel and swimmers, still wet from my earlier swim. He located my wallet, and pulled out my drivers licence with obvious glee. Each time I attempted to move PC29’s grip on my arms became firmer."
The words I want to use...
...would offend the delicate shell-likes of Ms Moderatrix.
I'd rather risk a bomb than be a fascist.
I'd rather risk a bomb than live in a police state.
Ignorant and heavy handed police like this just create more problems than their tiny and bullying minds could possibly solve.
Not only should he press charges for theft, he should press charges for assault.
That said, if a pig can beat a woman holding a carton of juice on camera and walk away from court, I think he's got no chance.
Throughout the 80s and 90s when the (rather more competent) IRA were blowing people up on a regular basis, the chances of you getting blown up were vanishingly small. Now, the chances of you getting blown up in London are orders of magnitude lower than the chances of you getting run over, or having a drunken injury on the Tube (in the last 10 years at least 50 times more people have had drunken injuries on public transport in London than have been blown up).
The chances of me being stopped and screwed around by over-zealous police because I'm enjoying some photography is actually very high, so this concerns me far more than being blown up.
Finally, and this one is really important so listen carefully. Can someone, please, point out to me the link between photographers and terrorists. As far as I am aware (and I was in the military for 8 years, searching under my car every day for an IRA bomb), there has never been a case reported anywhere in the world in which a terrorist attack has been linked to an earlier recce by a photographer with a big SLR (that would nicely show up on CCTV if you went looking). I can't even remember any cases where someone went out with a point and shoot prior to a terrorist attack. I can remember an SLR being used to photograph the front of a bank in the film, "The Bank Job", and perhaps this is the link the police are using. If you are going to stop photographers because they might be performing recce for a forthcoming explosion, you should also stop everyone who uses the tube, since the 7 Jul bombers (iirc) did do a recce that involved travelling along the tube lines they were going to bomb a short while before 7 Jul.
If the police can come up with a decent link between photographers and terrorists. One which will withstand some basic scrutiny. Then we can start to take them seriously. At the moment, they are just being pocket stasi, abusing the excessive power that the last government decided to foolishly give them to combat a terror threat that has never been as serious as the IRA.
Re: Please run a poll
Evidently the second is vastly more likely and so I'm afraid I've have to vote for that. I presume that isn't the answer you wanted from your loaded question, so sorry about that.