Owning a camera doesn’t make you a criminal

Me on security guards, snappers and deleting photos

Part of the problem is overzealous people in uniform, whether they’re security guards or serving police officers. The Metropolitan Police’s crazed anti-terrorism adverts (PDF), which brand photographers as potential bombers, don’t exactly help. But there’s also a problem with the law.

The idea that Section 76 of the Counter-Terrorism Act makes photographing the police illegal is pure fantasy. It doesn’t mention photos at all. Rather, it says that it’s illegal to gather or publish information about the police or armed forces that is “likely to be useful” to a mad bomber, foreign spy or Osama Bin Laden.

With pretty much everything in the world linked to terrorism these days – Icelandic banks’ assets were frozen under anti-terrorism legislation, while anti-terrorism surveillance powers have also been used to crack down on such threats to life and liberty as dog crap and fly-tippers – then it’s easy to see how that phrase can be misinterpreted, either by accident or by design.






0 responses to “Owning a camera doesn’t make you a criminal”

  1. I don’t really understand the situation properly at all, but I’m OUTRAGED and going to sign a petition about it on the internet. And sulk.

  2. Squander Two

    Bet they were PCSOs. An Austrian wouldn’t have known the difference. Hell, most British people seem not to.

  3. mupwangle

    >>Bet they were PCSOs.

    The general assumption in most of these cases is that it’s either PCSOs or security guards. Unfortunately it seems that the majority of stories I hear (and I do follow this stuff so I hear a lot) either it is the proper police, or the PCSO calls the police who then back them up. That’s what prompted that MP to table an early day motion to ask the government to clarify the legal position and got the home office to nearly say that it was OK and that they were asking all chief constables to ensure that their officers knew the law.

    I’ve only had hassle from people rather than from the Police. Someone shouted “pervert” at me because I was taking pictures of a couple of workmen riding a train in a park (they looked silly!) (the assumption that anyone in a park with a camera is a perv) and I got hassled by some bloke who thought I was taking his picture from about 500 yards away (he caught the reflection off the lens) He must’ve been about 2 pixels high and one of about 200 people, but some people are paranoid. The one time the police probably should’ve stopped me was when I was taking pictures of a magistrates court (which is illegal, technically, but I was doing it for their managing agents. The police wouldn’t know that though.) They did come after me and screeched to a halt beside the car, but that’s because I’d stopped too close to a set of traffic lights. They just asked me what I was doing then asked me not to park in crap places.

  4. Squander Two

    > got hassled by some bloke who thought I was taking his picture from about 500 yards away (he caught the reflection off the lens)

    You should have reported him to the police. He must have been up to no good.

    As usual, I’ve blogged about wrong Gary is.

  5. Gary

    Oh, you pedantic bastard :) It’s a badly written law, definitely. One of many.

    > The fact is, Parliament had the opportunity, having been warned of precisely this outcome, to design a law intended to stop the police doing this — and to stop the myriad other abuses of RIPA. And they chose not to. The Home Office’s protestations of innocence now should be seen as nothing more than, at best, admissions of gross incompetence.

    Absolutely. I really don’t think they deliberately set out to make bad law. But that’s the result.

    > Bet they were PCSOs.

    They’re generally the worst offenders, but as mupwangle says they’re not the only ones. And the cops often back ’em up.

  6. Squander Two

    > I really don’t think they deliberately set out to make bad law.

    I didn’t either, until Iceland. The Prime Minister was willing to misuse the law even if it meant creating a major international diplomatic incident by branding a friendly nation with absolute zero history of terrorism as a terrorist nation. Most politicians, I think they get into it in order to help people and then they fuck up. But when the ambiguity in a law is used so soon after it was drafted and by one of the people who drafted it, well, no.

    > Oh, you pedantic bastard

    For me, hearing that sentence is like coming home.