This is the question many photographers are now asking after the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) sent a strong warning out about the use of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act.
Chief Constable Andy Trotter wrote in the Independent
: "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. We need to make sure that our officers and PCSOs are not unnecessarily targeting photographers just because they are going about their business.
Even though the ACPO have said it's "unacceptable" to use Section 44 of the Terrorism Act to stop photographers taking photographs, the police can still use 'old-fashioned' police skills and talk to the person they think is acting suspiciously.
ePHOTOzine's editor, Peter Bargh thinks: "I believe we should be free to take pictures in public access places, but I also realise that we have to be very careful regarding terrorism. I don't really have any issues about being stopped and my motives questioned, as long as I'm then allowed to continue once it's clear that I have no hidden agenda. I've been stopped once while taking photographs and the police officer soon realised I was a genuine photographer and allowed me to continue taking photos. I'm happy with that approach, providing it's done with sensitivity, common sense and not aggressively to make me feel like a criminal. We all happily accept the occasional questioning at airport checkouts and I don't see a great deal of difference when photographing potential terrorist targets. The trouble is we are not given details of areas/properties that the police feel are sensitive.
"I think this has always boiled down to common sense on both sides
," added ePHOTOzine's technical writer Matt Grayson. "The Police need to think that a potential terrorist isn't going to be stood in front of a target area with a large DSLR, telephoto lens and tripod. They'll be tucked away discreetly taking photos on their camera phone or compact. Or they'll be sat in front of a computer searching the thousands of photographs already available. The public maybe need to be a bit more co-operative. Explaining your rights or refusing to give your details won't placate the Police Officer, it'll make them think you're hiding something. Give them your address, it won't hurt and pictures can be retrieved from your card at home.