What is police photography

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Police statements and guidance
Official police statements on dealing with photographers.
(Updated 14 Dec 2009)

In response to growing public and professional concern, the police forces have started issuing statements on how they will deal with photographers. We'll archive them here for reference.

Guidance issued to MPS officers and staff re stop and search photo policy
14th December 2009.

John Yates, Assistant Commissioner Specialist Operations, has today reminded all MPS officers and staff that people taking photographs in public should not be stopped and searched unless there is a valid reason.

The message, which has been circulated to all Borough Commanders and published on the MPS intranet, reinforces guidance previously issued around powers relating to stop and search under the Terrorism Act 2000.

Guidance on the issue will continue to be included in briefings to all operational officers and staff.

Mr Yates said: "People have complained that they are being stopped when taking photographs in public places. These stops are being recorded under Stop and Account and under Section 44 of TACT. The complaints have included allegations that people have been told that they cannot photograph certain public buildings, that they cannot photograph police officers or PCSOs and that taking photographs is, in itself, suspicious."

"Whilst we must remain vigilant at all times in dealing with suspicious behaviour, staff must also be clear that:
- there is no restriction on people taking photographs in public places or of any building other than in very exceptional circumstances
- there is no prohibition on photographing front-line uniform staff
- the act of taking a photograph in itself is not usually sufficient to carry out a stop.

"Unless there is a very good reason, people taking photographs should not be stopped."

"An enormous amount of concern has been generated about these matters. You will find below what I hope is clear and unequivocal guidance on what you can and cannot do in respect of these sections. This complements and reinforces previous guidance that has been issued. You are reminded that in any instance where you do have reasonable suspicion then you should use your powers under Section 43 TACT 2000 and account for it in the normal way."

"These are important yet intrusive powers. They form a vital part of our overall tactics in deterring and detecting terrorist attacks. We must use these powers wisely. Public confidence in our ability to do so rightly depends upon your common sense. We risk losing public support when they are used in circumstances that most reasonable people would consider inappropriate."

The guidance:

Section 43 Terrorism Act 2000

Section 43 is a stop and search power which can be used if a police officer has reasonable suspicion that a person may be a terrorist. Any police officer can:
- Stop and search a person who they reasonably suspect to be a terrorist to discover whether they have in their possession anything which may constitute evidence that they are a terrorist.
- View digital images contained in mobile telephones or cameras carried by the person searched to discover whether the images constitute evidence they are involved in terrorism.
- Seize and retain any article found during the search which the officer reasonably suspects may constitute evidence that the person is a terrorist, including any mobile telephone or camera containing such evidence.

The power, in itself, does not permit a vehicle to be stopped and searched.

Section 44 Terrorism Act 2000

Section 44 is a stop and search power which can be used by virtue of a person being in a designated area.

Where an authority is in place, police officers in uniform, or PCSOs IF ACCOMPANIED by a police officer can:
- Stop and search any person; reasonable grounds to suspect an individual is a terrorist are not required. (PCSOs cannot search the person themselves, only their property.)
- View digital images contained in mobile telephones or cameras carried by a person searched, provided that the viewing is to determine whether the images contained in the camera or mobile telephone are connected with terrorism.
- Seize and retain any article found during the search which the officer reasonably suspects is intended to be used in connection with terrorism.

General points

Officers do not have the power to delete digital images, destroy film or to prevent photography in a public place under either power. Equally, officers are also reminded that under these powers they must not access text messages, voicemails or emails.

Where it is clear that the person being searched under Sections 43 or 44 is a journalist, officers should exercise caution before viewing images as images acquired or created for the purposes of journalism may constitute journalistic material and should not be viewed without a Court Order.

If an officer's rationale for effecting a stop is that the person is taking photographs as a means of hostile reconnaissance, then it should be borne in mind that this should be under the Section 43 power. Officers should not default to the Section 44 power in such instances simply because the person is within one of the designated areas.

For more information visit external link.

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Section 44 Terrorism Act and Photography 4 Dec 2009

Statement sent out by the Association of Chief Police Officers to Chief Constables and Commissioners across England and Wales:
Adverse media coverage of the police service use of Section 44 powers, when dealing with issues relating to photography, have recently hit the headlines again and suggests that officers continue to misuse the legislation that is available to them. The evidence also suggests that there is confusion over the recording requirements of 'Stop and Account' and the actual police powers of 'Stop and Search'. The purpose of this letter is to clarify the legislation and guidance in relation to these matters.

Stop and Search

Section 44 gives officers no specific powers in relation to photography and there is no provision in law for the confiscation of equipment or the destruction of images, either digital or on film.

On the rare occasion where an officer suspects that an individual is taking photographs as part of target reconnaissance for terrorist purposes, then they should be treated as a terrorist suspect and dealt with under Section 43 of the Act. This would ensure that the legal power exists to seize equipment and recover images taken. Section 58A Counter Terrorism Act 2008 provides powers to cover instances where photographs are being taken of police officers who are, or who have been, employed at the front line of counter terrorism operations.

These scenarios will be exceptionally rare events and do not cover instances of photography by rail enthusiasts, tourists or the media.

The ACPO/NPIA Practice Advice, published in December 2008, is again included with this letter and specifically covers the issues surrounding photography. The guidance also includes the need for clear briefings on the use of Section 44 and it may be appropriate to include photography issues within those briefings.

Stop and Account

Encounters between police officers and PCSOs and the public range from general conversation through to arrest. Officers need to be absolutely clear that no record needs to be submitted to cover any activity that merely constitutes a conversation.

Only at the point where a member of the public is asked to account for their actions, behaviour, presence in an area or possession of an item, do the provisions of the PACE Act apply and a record for that 'stop and account' need to be submitted. Even at that point, such a discussion does not constitute the use of any police power and should not be recorded under the auspices of the Terrorism Act, for example.

Officers should be reminded that it is not an offence for a member of the public or journalist to take photographs of a public building and use of cameras by the public does not ordinarily permit use of stop and search powers.

Yours sincerely Andrew Trotter OBE QPM Chief Constable Head of ACPO Media Advisory Group

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Metropolitan Police - Photography advice 9th July 2009

The Metropolitan Police Service's approach towards photography in public places is a subject of regular debate.

We encourage officers and the public to be vigilant against terrorism but recognise the balance between effective policing and protecting Londoners and respecting the rights of the media and the general public to take photographs.

Guidance around the issue has been made clear to officers and PCSOs through briefings and internal communications. The following advice is available to all officers and provides a summary of the Metropolitan Police Service's guidance around photography in public places.

Freedom to photograph/film

Members of the public and the media do not need a permit to film or photograph in public places and police have no power to stop them filming or photographing incidents or police personnel.

Photography and Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000

The Terrorism Act 2000 does not prohibit people from taking photographs or digital images in an area where an authority under section 44 is in place.

Officers have the power to view digital images contained in mobile telephones or cameras carried by a person searched under S44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, provided that the viewing is to determine whether the images contained in the camera or mobile telephone are of a kind, which could be used in connection with terrorism.
Officers also have the power to seize and retain any article found during the search which the officer reasonably suspects is intended to be used in connection with terrorism.

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Photography and Section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000

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.
Officers also have the power to seize and retain any article found during the search which the officer reasonably suspects may constitute evidence that the person is involved in terrorism.

Section 58a of the Terrorism Act 2000

Section 58a of the Terrorism Act 2000 covers the offence of eliciting, publishing or communicating information about members of the armed forces, intelligence services or police.

Any officer making an arrest for an offence under Section 58a must be able to demonstrate a reasonable suspicion that the information was of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

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.

Guidelines for MPS staff on dealing with media reporters, press photographers and television crews

Contact with photographers, reporters and television crews is a regular occurrence for many officers and staff.
The media influences our reputation so it's crucial to maintain good working relations with its members, even in difficult circumstances.

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Following these guidelines means both media and police can fulfil their duties without hindering each other.

Creating vantage points

When areas are cordoned off following an incident, creating a vantage point, if possible, where members of the media at the scene can see police activity, can help them do their job without interfering with a police operation. However, media may still report from areas accessible to the general public.

Identifying the media

Genuine members of the media carry identification, for instance the UK Press Card, which they will present on request.

The press and the public

If someone distressed or bereaved asks the police to stop the media recording them, the request can be passed on to the media, but not enforced.

Access to incident scenes

The Senior Investigating Officer is in charge of granting members of the media access to incident scenes. In the early stages of investigation, evidence gathering and forensic retrieval take priority over media access, but, where appropriate, access should be allowed as soon as is practicable.

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Film Unit

The aim of the Metropolitan Police Service Film Unit is to be a central point of contact, to co-ordinate, facilitate and bring consistency to those people filming in London with MPS support.

We work together with Film London and stakeholders of the Film London Partnership to make London accessible, whilst minimising inconvenience to Londoners and increasing the economic benefits of filming.

For more information please visit the external link.
external link

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Note: This article attempts to be a brief educational guide to the sometimes-complex matter of your rights as a photographer. It is not legal advice and we recommend seeking out proper legal advice if you encounter problems or contributing to our . Some material in this article has been sourced from the website.




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