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.