Photographers are still being treated like criminals and are constantly being told by police that they cannot take photos in public places, even though they have the same rights to photograph in public as anyone else has. It is in fact only members of the press whose rights are limited.
If you are in a place where a member of the public has free access, like the street and you are not causing an obstruction or disturbing the peace, you have every right to be there.
But still it appears that the laws around photography in public places is not understood – even by those who are supposed to be enforcing it.
A spokesperson from the Association of Chief Police Officers said: “When it comes to specific guidelines for PCSO's they are entitled to question if they are being caught in a photograph as it can be considered a breach of the data protection act and therefore they are able to ask for their photograph not to be taken, be that indirectly or directly.”
But even if the police officer in question has not been photographed, why do they still insist on stopping and questioning photographers? Do they have nothing better to do?
The police spokesperson told us that officers can stop people taking photographers under the stop and search facilities available to police: “Stop and search under the Terrorism Act 2000 is a vital tactic in our counter terrorism strategy. The powers can disrupt and deter terrorist activity, create a hostile environment for terrorists and provide a visible reassurance to the public.”
Manchester Metropolitan police ask on their website:“Terrorists use surveillance to help plan attacks. Have you seen anyone taking pictures or filming CCTV cameras or making notes about other security arrangements?”
This way of thinking has been pushed onto the public and has created a sense of suspicion.
There have been publications in local press and broadcasts on the radio and a large part of these focus on the public been told to report anyone acting suspiciously with a camera. This campaign seems only to be adding to the current state of confusion and could cause even more trouble for photographers who wish to continue with their hobby.
An ever growing number of photographers have said they have been prevented from taking photographs in public places for no good reason at all. One photographer, who is a member of ePHOTOzine, was taking a simple photograph of a flag when they were stopped. “I was stood on the pavement outside Manchester Victoria train station one day last week taking some pictures of the flag on the pole on top with a lovely blue sky background when Mr. security guard walked up to me and said 'you can’t take photos here, its not allowed,'" said Boony on the ePHOTOzine forum.
In Blackpool earlier this month, John Kelly was ordered by a Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) to delete his pictures because their was an officer in the shot.
The amateur insists that the photographers were long distance landscape shots and the PCSO was in the distance. The 54-year-old was planning to enter his photographs into a competition called Blackpool Life.
He had been using a Nikon D40 digital SLR, which is not a professional level camera.
Another case where police have used stop and search powers without reasonable cause is in the case of freelance photographer Ben Leamy. He was arrested, pushed against a wall, handcuffed and locked up for 11 hours even though he showed the police his press card at the protest in 2005. He has now won £4000 in a settlement from the City of London Police, but has still not received an apology.
With terrorism being issue on everyone's mind coupled with the new advertising campaign against it, it seems there has been some confusion within the police force on whether they should be stopping photographers, but perhaps a little common sense needs to be put in place before any more amateur photographers are unnecessarily stopped from pursuing their passion.
Words by Victoria Civil