back to article ACPO defuses impending photo row with police forces

Just two weeks since they clarified their position on the law regarding photography, the Association of Chief Police Officers last night issued a short note further clarifying its clarification. This follows the recent exposure by The Register of a widening gulf between ACPO and local police forces over the question of when it …


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  1. JMB


    "Get the camera to spit out a 5 digit checksum (could be a compressed longer checksum) of the images on the SD. Make a note, smile pleasantly and hand over the card."

    So plod deletes images, how do you prove there were images there as all you have a five digit number? I could write five digits on a piece of paper but it does not prove anything.

    What is the copyright position of the images, could you tell them that you charge £xxx for the use of any of your photographs and by taking the camera they are agreeing to a contract to pay that for any that they use including in criminal investigations and prosecutions? By removing the camera from your sight then you will presume that they are used all images stored in it and so will be charging them for such use.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother


    Why is it not possible for the police to copy images they may require and return *Our Lawful Property* to us at the local nick in a matter of minutes? If the copy is made on approved equipment at the Police premises then there is no problem with the chain of evidence surely? It means that law abiding joe public can keep hold of his camera and is more likely to offer "evidence" at any time in the future - even when the Police may not realise it exists.

    It seems that over the last 15 years this bullying spiteful country has taken upon itself all sorts of powers to confiscate lawfully held items and keep them for as long as it sees fit. This is something that need reversing.

    The Police work by our consent - they also need to be reminded of their duty of care to us to return any property to us within the shortest possible time.

    This heavy handed approach we see now is one of the reasons that the public are less inclined to help the Police

    AC cos I own a camera I use in public places

    1. david wilson

      @AC 13:01

      >>"Why is it not possible for the police to copy images they may require and return *Our Lawful Property* to us at the local nick in a matter of minutes? "

      That might work, as long as the equipment could be totally certified to have taken perfect image copies of every last bit on the storage device.

      I don't know how much such equipment would cost, though, what with the need for every machine to keep up with all possible media formats.

      Presumably it'd need to have some decent security to avoid unauthorised access, and also very good backup to avoid the possibility of losing many device's worth of data with one crash

      I'm sure it could be done, though I'm also sure it'd be a nice little earner for whoever got the contract to supply and update all the machines.

  3. PhilDin

    Constantly reminded of Brazil

    The film that is, not the country, this clip really captures the mood for the whole film:

    Note that everyone involved is a bit busy, a bit unsympathetic but never actually evil (with the possible exception of the security guard in the Information Retrieval HQ), some of the officials are tremendously nice people in fact. This film should be required watching for anyone involved in public administration (actually, it should be required watching for anyone wishing to cast a vote).

  4. D.j.Fudgge


    Section 22 of the act says

    (4) Nothing may be retained for either of the purposes mentioned

    in subsection (2)(a) above if a photograph or copy would

    be sufficient for that purpose.

  5. Ian Ferguson

    I don't suppose...

    ...a camera can be rigged to record simultaneously to two identical memory cards? (A kind of RAID, if you like).

    In the case of a police request or demand, one card can be lent to them and one card kept for personal purposes.

    1. Cynical Observer

      The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

      Nikon D300s - Two Slots - Two Cards (CF and SD)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Alternatively, don't keep any photos on your memory card

    I understand that using a Wifi equipped SD memory card, or a Wifi enabled DSLR, will enable photographers to send their pictures to a web site or external storage when they are taken. These devices should be usable with a hotspot enabled cellphone. Which means that the police can still take your camera, but not your photos.

    Incidentally, Wifi options for DSLRs are expensive, but Wifi SD cards are not. Not sure how well they work though.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh for god's sake...

    It's so simple to end all the waffle and the bullshit about this

    Just have every cop in the country to lay off cameras. Completely. 100%. Take no more notice of them than shirt buttons. Forget cameras!

    Any chance?

    1. david wilson


      >>"Just have every cop in the country to lay off cameras. Completely. 100%. Take no more notice of them than shirt buttons. Forget cameras!"

      So you're saying they should forget all kinds of potential evidence sources?

      Maybe they should also avoid talking to people who might be witnesses, just in case someone doesn't like talking to the police?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down


      Zero. Squat. De nada.

      1. david wilson

        Any Chances

        >>"Zero. Squat. De nada."

        Not least because the police know that the first time they ignore possible evidence and someone appears to get away with a crime, they'll get the blame.

        More than likely with some of the people moaning the loudest being the people who the previous day would have had an entirely different idea about which absolute principles were best.

  8. Steve Evans

    Job for a high end DSLR...

    Some high end DLSRs such as the Nikon D300s can support two memory cards, an SD and a CF. You can set the camera to shoot RAW+JPEG. The raw gets put on the huge CF, the JPEG on the CF...

    "Excuse me sir, I need those photographs under S19 PACE"...

    -remove SD

    "Sure, here you are... Receipt please"

    -insert another SD (just in case he requires more photos under S19) and continue shooting.

    You have complied with the letter of S19.

    If he continually hits you with S19 until you run out of SD cards then you have probably got grounds for a harassment claim.

  9. Dave 120


    Just to comment on the question of what ACPO do and why.

    The idea is that ACPO issue guidance so that all forces deal with things in the best and most consisten way.

    So say some police force has a well polished and efficient system whereby any time a photographer has images that are required the media is seized, the photographer given a receipt, the media copied and returned to them quickly.

    And in another force the whole camera is taken, bagged and held until after the court case.

    Well clearly the former is preferable and achieves the objective of retrieving evidence with the minimum of disruption to the photographer. Well ACPO is responsible for finding and then disseminating best practice to all the forces.

    That's the theory anyway. Laws are always so vague that SOMEONE has to interpret the best way to uphold them.

  10. ShaggyDoggy


    My little 8 year old Nikon doesn't need a SD card, it has 14Mb internal memory. You can put a card in as well of course. But you can get quite a lot of pics on internal. So i can save to internal the pics I want to keep and give the copper the SD card with a couple of pics on it. Done.

  11. Rolf Howarth

    Police can do what they want

    The police CAN do what they want. The important thing is, though, they have to be able to justify it. I have no problem with the poor police officer who sees a crime taking place, asks a bystander who was filming it if they'd mind letting him having a copy, and then encounters an awkward so-and-so who refuses out of principle, from then confiscating the camera anway. Most people would agree that is justified, but woe betide any officer who decides to abuse that power by attempting to confiscate arbitrary images of his own actions that he wishes hadn't been recorded. At the time, yes, he can do what he wants, but the longer term consequences for such abuse should (and I hope would) be quite severe for the officer concerned. As with everything, context and motive are all important.

  12. Dave 120
    Thumb Down

    @Chris Pearson & others

    " I can't see many people refusing"

    You really think so? I'd be willing to bet the majority of the commenters on these last 3 articles would do exactly that out of a sense of mistrust of the police/state/world or just bloody mindedness.

    The PACE amendment idea isn't a good one, and isn't needed.

    First lets look at what happens to the images we're taking about.

    Your (insert media type here) contains (or reasonably MIGHT contain) evidence of an offence. The police need evidence to do their job, I think most people can agree with that at least.

    If you're a professional camera man for a national media organisation it's going to be fairly likely that you'll keep the footage and you or it can be found by making enquiries to your employer. So thats what the police do. All the time. Without issue. But if you are an individual, affiliated with a blog/online mag/small newspaper that ability to follow up is less certain. In either case there is the issue of continuity and integrity of the images as someone already mentioned.

    So in order to reduce the risk of evidence being lost altered damaged or destroyed the police need it there and then

    They can, and should, ask you for it. Variable degrees of politeness involved but be that as it may you could volunteer to provide the (media type) and get the name/number of the officer. Job done, thanks very much.

    Of you could refuse, for whatever reasons seem good to you.

    This presents the police with a problem as they still need the evidence.

    So they have the power to seize it, there and then. Because its not possible to wait for a warrant, which would certainly be granted in the circumstances outlined already, as in the intervening time the evidence could be lost, deliberately or accidentally. You should still get the officers name or number to follow it up.

    Here's what happens next: The entire contents from the media are copied intact onto a write once disk. Actually onto 2. This is done by a person who knows what they're doing. One disk is sealed and marked as an exhibit. It is never opened unless ordered by a judge. The second is used for viewing and for making further sub copies if required. The person making these disks then writes a statement to the effect of "I know what I'm doing and I made this copy which contains everything that was on the media."

    At that point the media can be returned to you.

    How long that takes depends on the circumstances but I seriously doubt its the only media you have and your life will end without it.

    Theress nothing strange, unusual, dodgy or "new" about this process and its what happens every time cctv footage from a shop/pub/garage forecourt is used by police as evidence.

    What Mz Ozimek is doing is linking this normal procedure with the more odious, seemingly persistent and patently wrong practice of police trying to prevent people taking pictures when they have no right or power to do so.

    But this story isn't about that and shouldn't be linked to that. In my opinion.

    Its interesting to note that if you're confrontational, difficult and uncooperative from the outset with police they may judge that there's no point in asking as you'd indignantly say no so they just go to option B.

    It should be obvious that how the police treat you might be affected by how you treat them but there's a strange mentality round here that you should be able to be as abusive as you like and the police are obliged to wipe your spit off their face and call you "sir".

  13. dave 81

    We could end up in the mess the US has...

    Given the current crap storm as reported on we are not far off from this.

    The police should be told to back off from photographers completely. If they want the evidence, they can ask a copy and no more. Anything else is liable to corruption, and given what New Labour has done to the police, this is a huge risk!

    1. david wilson

      @dave 81

      >>"The police should be told to back off from photographers completely. If they want the evidence, they can ask a copy and no more."

      Problem is, a copy may well not good enough, and even if it was, at a given scene, forensic-standard copying facilities and people trained to use them may well not be available.

      >>"Anything else is liable to corruption, and given what New Labour has done to the police, this is a huge risk!"

      Sure it is. It's not as if the police before 1997 would ever have /contemplated/ doing anything dodgy, /especially/ not covering up for a fellow officer.

      If that ever happens in the future, you can reliably conclude that it's purely New Labour's fault.

  14. Martin Nelson

    Officious Police Officers

    I think the big problem isn't actually the law itself.

    Much like the traditional Stop and Search (Section 44 Terrorism Act is no longer enforceable under EU law and constitutes a breach of Human Rights Law in UK and EU) when an officer is polite and gives a genuine reason I have no issues sumbitting to the seach.

    Unfortunately, anyone who has taken photos in an urban environment will have come across the officious PC with something to prove. In this case it is very simple: Follow the Letter of the Law. Often I find that the more officious officers very rarely know which power they are using when they try to confiscate equipment or stop and search etc.

    If a police officer cannot name the Act and Section under which they are carrying out a search, seizure or other such action, then the end result is simple. They cannot use that power. Likewise if they give an inaccurate reason for an action.

    Recently a Police officer in my local area stopped me under Section 44 of the terrorism act and was, perhaps, the most rude and arrogant woman I'd ever met. With no smile, no Sir, and a face like thunder I politely informed her that should she continue I would be filing a private prosecution for breach of the Human Rights Act and EU convention of Human rights. Of course the officer tried the usual convincer of telling me that I was in the wrong. So I then asked for a written record of her name, warrant number and to see her warrant card before the search.

    What's interesting is that upon making a complaint later at the police station from which she came, her superior officer had nothing but apologies and she's now been given a formal warning and has had to go and be 're-trained'.

    The point of all this?

    You can't count on the police to know the law....but if you do it gives you an advantage.

  15. chris 130

    Cops ever thought of asking nicely?

    I would share an image of nasty boys, no problem.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    They used to complain about anyone taking any pictures...

    Someone said: "They should in my view endeavour to return the device intact and with nothing deleted within 24 hours of seizure; they have their evidence trail, photographer has his photos and camera back."

    Well this is precisely the problem: They are a bunch of lying bastards who can't be trusted as far as you could spit a rat. And they only have themselves to blame for me and others thinking this way.

    They used to complain about anyone taking any pictures and illegally harass us with dubious stop and search laws they promised would only be used for counter-terrorism. Now they want the pictures we have taken to help them do their jobs!

    After the way they have treated photographers of late, why does this government sponsored, duplicitous, self-serving, power-fetish bunch think we'd be willing to help in any way whatsoever?

    I'm spoiling for a fight and they'd have to arrest me to get anything even remotely resembling co-operation.

    1. david wilson

      @AC 09:47

      >>"...Now they want the pictures we have taken to help them do their jobs!"

      Though, to be fair, 'their jobs' are really the things we pay them to do and expect them to do, for the benefit of everyone, like investigating crimes and catching criminals.

      Even if some of them do act like arseholes the same way that some non-police officers do, that's a pretty lame reason for balking at actually helping /any/ of them do the things that they're supposed to be doing.

      There are crooks in the general population, but that's no reason for concluding that the general population is 'a bunch of lying bastards who can't be trusted' and treating everyone accordingly.

      >>"I'm spoiling for a fight and they'd have to arrest me to get anything even remotely resembling co-operation."

      And then, no doubt, you'd whine loudly about being arrested.

      Because the police would be entirely to blame for /that/ as well.

  17. David 45


    I drive for a living and as recently as yesterday I was parked taking a break when some sort of police raid seemed to be happening at a house right under my very nose. I always carry a very small digital camera but, in view of all the reports of harassing, I thought twice about using it and eventually decided against it. In the past, I always carried a conventional film camera and photographed several local scoops and incidents that afterwards appeared in the local paper (and paid for, I might add!) but those days seem to be gone.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    taking pictures

    ahem. have these 4 video cameras been temporarily confiscated?

    caption: one of the 4 cameras used to photograph UK's second largest MI-5 base

    Quoting from today's Belfast Telegraph

    "..But well placed sources in Belfast insisted the cameras were discovered and said the find was embarrassing for MI-5 which employs more than 300 people at the base. “There were four cameras hidden in the trees at the back of Palace Barracks which covered all angles of the base,” said an insider. “That is why all the perfectly healthy trees were chopped down instead of just erecting the fence. That measure showed how concerned MI-5 was by what dissidents were doing and by the atrocity they seemed to be planning. “The cameras were battery-powered and had been there for some time, maybe months. “They were also backed-up with memory sticks.”"

  19. cor

    Upload yer photos

    Use something like a mobile phone running Android, upload your pics to, say Picasa (for user-ease; of course a savvy geek will upload them where (s)he likes..).

    If plod nicks your 'phone - (most of) your pics are safe, being already hosted elsewhere. They can destroy what they like after that, it's too late :)

    This technique has been effective for years in undercover/violent/war-zone frontline situations for TV crews (wireless signal to upload-truck).

    Easy :)


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