"Back in April of this year I came across a police stop and search in Trafalgar Square. This was the day before the Olympic Torch was due to arrive in London. I took a few frames of what was going on and then I was stopped by a police officer who made it very clear he knew who I was but he still wanted to take a look at my UK Press Card. He said, “I want your card number for my records”, so he writes down my press card number in his notebook and I take a picture. This was not a new experience for me. But is working on Britain’s streets just about to get harder?
On Thursday 20th November the Home Office will publish new operational guidance to the police on the use of stop and search powers under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 of those taking photographs in public places.
The draft guidance says,
“There is no power under the Terrorism Act 2000 to prohibit people from taking photographs or digital images in an area where an authority under section 44 is in place.
“If officers reasonably suspect that photographs are being taken as part of hostile terrorist reconnaissance then they should act appropriately, by searching the person under Section 43 of the Terrorism Act or making an arrest. Cameras, film and memory cards may be seized as evidence but there is no power for images to be deleted or film to be destroyed by officers.”
If section 43 with its powers to seize “cameras, film and memory cards” is misused in the same way that section 44 has been misused by the police then just think of the chilling effect this will have on photography in a public place.
And then we have Clause 83 of the new Counter-Terrorism Bill 2008.
“(1) A person commits an offence who–
“(a) elicits or attempts to elicit information about an individual who is or has been–
“(i) a member of Her Majesty’s forces,
(ii) a member of any of the intelligence services, or
(iii) a constable,”
A “Constable” is the legal term for all police officers. “Elicits or attempts to elicit information” does that include taking a photograph and publishing it?
“(b) publishes or communicates any such information.”
Yep. And you can get 10 years for this one! And I all most forgot, every police force in Britain is going to be equipped with mobile fingerprint scanners which will allow the police to carry out identity checks on people on the street.