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Saturday, 11 July 2009

Met's advice to photographers

Published Thursday: http://www.met.police.uk/about/photography.htm

Including: "Officers have the power to view digital images contained in mobile telephones or cameras carried by a person searched under S43 of the Terrorism Act 2000 to discover whether they have in their possession anything which may constitute evidence that they are involved in terrorism."

And the wonderfully unambiguous: "It should ordinarily be considered inappropriate to use Section 58a to arrest people photographing police officers in the course of normal policing activities, including protests, as without more, there is no link to terrorism. There is however nothing preventing officers asking questions of an individual who appears to be taking photographs of someone who is or has been a member of Her Majesty’s Forces (HMF), Intelligence Services or a constable."

So, it's not technically against the law, but if the police decide it is, then it, er, is.

Plus: 'The Met's attack on photographers'
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2009/jul/09/photography-anti-terrorism-regulations

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

"There is however nothing preventing officers asking questions of an individual who appears to be taking photographs of someone who is or has been a member of Her Majesty’s Forces (HMF), Intelligence Services or a constable."

There is, as I understand it, nothing preventing officers asking questions of any individual, whether he does or does not appear to be taking photographs of someone who is or has been a member of Her Majesty's Forces (HMF), Intelligence Services or a constable. The statement does not say we are obliged to answer.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but why not answer?

"We're protesting about the fact that your team is photographing us, and building up a database of innocent members of the public based on their involvement in lawful protest.

As an officer of a police service that is supposed to be supportive of our right to do this, would you care to make a comment for the nice little video camera, officer?"

Martin

Anonymous said...

Thanks Martin,

You ask, "why not answer?". I'm afraid I'm not quite sure what your point is. Are you saying we need a reason to exercise our freedom not to answer? Are you saying we should answer questions from the police? Do you think that our freedom should be contrained not only by law but also by the existence of reasons for what we do? Perhaps you imagine that my position is that we should not answer and you are asking me to support this view with argument?

In fact what I am saying is simply that we are free not to answer and I would argue that this freedom is an instance of the same freedom the state is there to protect.

Here is why I think this. One of the purposes of the state is to protect our freedom. In a republic of law, we are free to act constrained only by the law. The statement quoted in the blog entry does not say the law requires us to answer and I assume the law does not. It follows, then, that we are free not to answer and that this freedom is an instance of the same freedom the state is there to protect.

Please let me know if my assumption is not correct. Perhaps FIT should write to the Met Chief for clarification.

Best Wishes,
Stephen
a.k.a. Anon 11 JULY 2009 15:39

Really Fit said...

Marc Vallee's article in the Guardian highlights two examples when photographers were prevented from working and threatened under the terrorism act for taking photographs of police officers.

Stop and searches under s43 and s44 of the terrorism act have been often misused to give police a blanket stop and search provision at protests, including arms fair protests and those against climate change. Specifically extending this search to include photographs taken on digital devices seems to give the police carte blanche to demand cameras from photographers, or use force (or arrest) to gain them.

This is not a good development from the point of view of protesters or journalists.

Anonymous said...

The MPS wording is helpful to my mind - it demonstrates there's a high burden of proof if police wish to prevent photography or seize equipment.

The issue is that these guidelines (and photographers) are abused in practice.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Martin,

You ask, "why not answer?". I'm afraid I'm not quite sure what your point is. Are you saying we need a reason to exercise our freedom not to answer?

Not at all - I'm just pointing out that by answering, you can highlight the riculous position the police have created for themselves...

Are you saying we should answer questions from the police? Do you think that our freedom should be contrained not only by law but also by the existence of reasons for what we do?

NO! Stephen, I think you need to re-read my post.

What I am saying is that you have the alternative, SHOULD YOU CHOOSE, to converse with the police, and maybe that might be helpful. It'll almost certainly achieve more than just blanking them.

You know what? When someone speaks to me, I reply - it's common courtesy. Now that reply might well be "Sorry, but unless you can demonstrate how I am legally obliged to answer your question, I'm afraid I prefer not to express a view..." - but you don't need to be a tw@t about it.
Perhaps you imagine that my position is that we should not answer and you are asking me to support this view with argument?

Stephen, you've jumped a little early on this one matey - I'm saying nothing of the sort.

In fact what I am saying is simply that we are free not to answer and I would argue that this freedom is an instance of the same freedom the state is there to protect.

I agree - but by choosing to reply, you are not surrendering any freedoms - you're entering into a conversation. You'll achieve more by entering into a conversation that you will by saying nowt...

Here is why I think this. One of the purposes of the state is to protect our freedom. In a republic of law, we are free to act constrained only by the law. The statement quoted in the blog entry does not say the law requires us to answer and I assume the law does not. It follows, then, that we are free not to answer and that this freedom is an instance of the same freedom the state is there to protect.

Then use the state to protect your freedoms... Engage these people in debate! The FIT's position is so ridiculous they can't really stand up to an informed debate - which is why you need to think more in terms of forcing one upon them.

Please let me know if my assumption is not correct. Perhaps FIT should write to the Met Chief for clarification.

An open letter to the MET might be a very useful tool - it's a good idea.

Martin

Anonymous said...

"It should ordinarily be considered inappropriate to use Section 58a to arrest people photographing police officers in the course of normal policing activities, including protests, as without more, there is no link to terrorism. There is however nothing preventing officers asking questions of an individual who appears to be taking photographs of someone who is or has been a member of Her Majesty’s Forces (HMF), Intelligence Services or a constable."
I think you need to read it again - why does it suggest that officers ask questions? TO MAKE THE LINK - what do you think refusing to answer questions does to reasonable suspicion?
Think ' I saw a man taking photo's of... I asked him why and he made no response - I asked him again - he said nothing - I arrested....'

Anonymous said...

Vs

"I asked him why he was taking photographs of police officers, and he told me it was to highlight the fact that we had photographed him with, in his view, no just cause."

He didn't seem to be carrying an AK-47, so I let him go...

Martin

Anonymous said...

two examples of section 43 and 44 misuses.

http://www.bjp-online.com/public/showPage.html?page=865338

http://www.bjp-online.com/public/showPage.html?page=865334

cheers anon

Anonymous said...

I think Kent Police need to see a copy of this information as well.

http://www.kentonline.co.uk/kentonline/news/2009/july/13/amateur_photographer_arrested.aspx

Really Fit said...

No, sorry, refusing to answer a question does NOT acceptably estabish reasonable suspicion. It is a fundamental part of British law that there is NO compulsion on members of the public to give personal information to police officers, unless they are under arrest.

Reasonable suspicion requires some positive act or act which arouses suspicion that the individual has committed or is about to commit an offence.

The police regularly (and unlawfully) threaten arrest to people who do not give details/answers as requested. If you don't use a freedom you lose it. It is hugely important then that we hang on to our right to keep our business to ourselves by not answering snooping questions from police who have no reason at all to be snooping in the first place.

I suggest politely informing the police officer that you have no obligation to answer his questions, and that if he has reasonable suspicion that you have committed an offence, he should explain to you what that is. Otherwise, perhaps he should be on his way...

Really Fit said...

No, sorry, refusing to answer a question does NOT acceptably estabish reasonable suspicion. It is a fundamental part of British law that there is NO compulsion on members of the public to give personal information to police officers, unless they are under arrest.

Reasonable suspicion requires some positive act or act which arouses suspicion that the individual has committed or is about to commit an offence.

The police regularly (and unlawfully) threaten arrest to people who do not give details/answers as requested. If you don't use a freedom you lose it. It is hugely important then that we hang on to our right to keep our business to ourselves by not answering snooping questions from police who have no reason at all to be snooping in the first place.

I suggest politely informing the police officer that you have no obligation to answer his questions, and that if he has reasonable suspicion that you have committed an offence, he should explain to you what that is. Otherwise, perhaps he should be on his way...

Anonymous said...

Really Fit, step outside of the fitwatch bubble for just a second and put yourself in the place of a normal Police officer. If an officer genuinely suspects that someone is acting suspiciously and they ask them specific questions in order to confirm that an offence may or may not have been committed, then refusal to answer any questions would absolutely justify raising their suspicions. I'm not just referring to taking photographs at demos, I'm talking about other times and all levels of crime.

I have seen officers question people taking photographs of them or of other officers and members of the public that has lead to arrests for drugs, theft, crim damage, sexual assaults against children and mass burglary. Not all I happily admit, but being able to question ALL types of people IS absolutely necessary, and just because they are taking photographs and believe themselves to be completely innocent doesn't exempt them from being questioned about their actions. How hard do you honestly think it is to put together a fake ID and try to look like a journo or press photographer? about as hard as getting hold of a mail company uniform, or dressing up like a soldier, or even a police officer in an armoured car?

I know that you guys are solely focused on 'intrusive' policing of demonstrations, but we as Police officers don't just deal with demonstrations. Criminals AND terrorists carry out recces, sometimes in disguise or using some other pretence and it is our job to find them and stop them.

If someone is taking photographs of Police officers/ Service personnel or around vulnerable sites in a manner THAT I WOULD CONSIDER SUSPISCIOUS (attempting to hide the fact in some way and not just every day photos with tourist or at demos) then I would be expected to question them and to question their motives for not answering me, and if that leads to an arrest then it is the courts job to decide whether or not it was reasonable.

The legislation was written (NOT by Police officers I might add) to give another avenue of attack for the specific threats presented by the real terrorist element in this country (whether you think they exist or not) and attempt to cut off possible recces or to enable prosecution before an attack or a crime gets fully into the preparation or planning phase.

No one has been prosecuted for photographing Police officers innocently despite the bleating of both the NUJ and others groups since the legislation came in. Where officers and PCSO's have misinterpreted the law and improperly tried to stop people photographing them, that is a problem with their training and not some sinister attempt at restricting media, hence the constant updates and reminders about the legislation on the official Police intranet sites.

metcop

Really Fit said...

Metcop,

A few points in response:

You wrote:
"If an officer genuinely suspects that someone is acting suspiciously and they ask them specific questions in order to confirm that an offence may or may not have been committed, then refusal to answer any questions would absolutely justify raising their suspicions."

If an officer 'genuinely suspects' someone is acting suspiciously, they must have a reason for that suspicion. I would assume that the mere taking of pictures would not by itself be sufficient. If they have genuine reasons for suspicion, they should say what those reasons are.

In the absence of any such suspicion, there is no obligation on anyone to answer any questions. Not answering questions is not in itself sufficient to justify 'reasonable suspicion' or to justify arrest. And if you do arrest you are, in my opinion, making an unlawful arrest.

You are right that no-one has been successfully prosecuted for taking photos of police officers. If you read what we have written, you will see that we did not expect that there would be.

What we did expect - and what we have started to see with some frequency - is the threat being used to scare people from taking photos, or to demand deletion of pictures. This has been done by officers with extensive public order experience - hardly untrained PCSOs.

And it has been done to protesters and working journalists - not terrorists on a recce!

Anonymous said...

Hi MetCop...
Really Fit, step outside of the fitwatch bubble for just a second and put yourself in the place of a normal Police officer. If an officer genuinely suspects that someone is acting suspiciously and they ask them specific questions in order to confirm that an offence may or may not have been committed, then refusal to answer any questions would absolutely justify raising their suspicions. I'm not just referring to taking photographs at demos, I'm talking about other times and all levels of crime.

As Really Fit has already stated, I think you would need a reason for the initial suspicion before you could act like this. I certainly hope that this is the case, because we're taking a very regressive step otherwise...

If you genuinely have a reason to believe someone taking photographs is acting in a suspicious manner, then I don't think anyone can really object to your looking into it - but you need to understand that the mere act of taking photographs is not in and of itself grounds for suspicion of an offence... Most terrorist don't kill people in their own bedroom - doesn't mean you're allowed to shoot them on the landing, now does it?


Martin

Anonymous said...

Whether or not the police treatment of photographers is intended to harrass and frustrate (and if you tell me it's not you'll need a good argument to convince me), the fact is that it IS harrassing them. Your actions are restricting protest - and that is simply not tolerable.

I have seen officers question people taking photographs of them or of other officers and members of the public that has lead to arrests for drugs, theft, crim damage, sexual assaults against children and mass burglary. Not all I happily admit, but being able to question ALL types of people IS absolutely necessary, and just because they are taking photographs and believe themselves to be completely innocent doesn't exempt them from being questioned about their actions. How hard do you honestly think it is to put together a fake ID and try to look like a journo or press photographer? about as hard as getting hold of a mail company uniform, or dressing up like a soldier, or even a police officer in an armoured car?

I'm confused : which is it?

a) You want to be able to prevent people going about their lawful business without having any grounds for suspicion, or
b) You recognise the need for some grounds for your suspicion, and feel that the mere taking of a photograph will do.
c) Something I've not thought of.

I know that you guys are solely focused on 'intrusive' policing of demonstrations, but we as Police officers don't just deal with demonstrations. Criminals AND terrorists carry out recces, sometimes in disguise or using some other pretence and it is our job to find them and stop them.

True, but then it's also your job to respect the law, and not to limit peaceful protest. From what we've seen of late, it seems like you're only interested in doing half the job (not you personally of course, the police as a service).

If someone is taking photographs of Police officers/ Service personnel or around vulnerable sites in a manner THAT I WOULD CONSIDER SUSPISCIOUS (attempting to hide the fact in some way and not just every day photos with tourist or at demos) then I would be expected to question them and to question their motives for not answering me, and if that leads to an arrest then it is the courts job to decide whether or not it was reasonable.

Where you actually have a reason to be suspicious, I'd support you. In most situaitons I'd give you the "hidden camera" as a reason, but hidden cameras are also an often employed journalistic tool - so I wouldn't want you to have the power to come down on someone merely for carrying a hidden camera. But then, you don't need a "power" to do that. If you see a camera, you can ask - the protesters might respond... As I said in a previous response, I think answering an officer (even if the answer is "None of your business officer") is just basic common courtesy.

I also don't like the way that someone is only deemed to be a "valid" journalist if they have a NUJ press card, but that's another matter.

legislation was written (NOT by Police officers I might add) to give another avenue of attack for the specific threats presented by the real terrorist element in this country (whether you think they exist or not) and attempt to cut off possible recces or to enable prosecution before an attack or a crime gets fully into the preparation or planning phase.

And yet so much of this terrorism leglislation seems to be used as a tool of convenience against peaceful protestors. Odd that, isn't it?

Martin

Anonymous said...

No one has been prosecuted for photographing Police officers innocently despite the bleating of both the NUJ and others groups since the legislation came in. Where officers and PCSO's have misinterpreted the law and improperly tried to stop people photographing them, that is a problem with their training and not some sinister attempt at restricting media, hence the constant updates and reminders about the legislation on the official Police intranet sites.

First of all, the concerns of the NUJ, and Fitwatch, and other such groups, are not "bleating" - they're valid concerns from those you are supposed to be serving. If you have a problem with the views expressed, engage with them - as indeed you have here, but don't resort to name calling...

Secondly, if the police are subkect to "constand updates and reminders" about the leglislation, then how comes the message isn't getting through?

Face it - the police don't like being filmed, and are prepared to disregard the law (which offers Joe Public protections) when it suits their purpose. If you can't even concede the way things are, how can we have an informed chat?

And finally, and you weren't expecting this on here - thanks! Good to see someone who, though perhaps won't agree with the views of most of the people on here, is at least prepared to step forward and engage in a civil conversation...

Martin

Anonymous said...

Scary story

http://monaxle.com/2009/07/08/section-44-in-chatham-high-street/

Anonymous said...

I find it fascinating the excuses, reasons and general blustering from those who counter any suggestion of abuse, misuse of legislation.
Lets face it and be totally honest for once, there are a significant number of well documented and recorded instances where photogs professional or otherwise are. have and will continue to be subject to such abuses.
Forget the niceties of whether photogs shoudl be answerign quuestiosn put to them, forget the expectatiosn that they will bow to pressure and harrassment.
Police will find a slowly increasing unwillingness to even consider cooperation, respect or trust of those who so openly and frequently take it upon themsleves to harrass, injure and or deter their action being recorded for whatever purpose.
Police are making a rod for their own back and appear to be too arrogant to see what will happen.
You may or may nto agree or liek what FITWATCH do have done or will do in the future but you have to hand it to them they have turned the tables in a rather smart way.
Police often forget they are there to uphold the law, not make it up as they go along , and certainly not there to be on the spot jusdger jury and in soem cases executioner.
Wake up and smell the coffeee!!