back to article Home Office guides plods on photography

Terror Laws due to be passed this autumn, could provide Police with a new and significant power to stop individuals taking photographs. This follows reassurances from Home secretary Jacqui Smith that there is "no legal restriction on taking photographs in public places", which is why she will shortly be issuing police with …


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  1. b

    Before anyone else get's there...

    "Our Jacqui hasn’t completely taken leave of her senses"


  2. Anonymous Coward

    All too familiar :o(

    I remember sometime ago taking long exposure pictures of Tower Bridge on a dark night. One chap walked by giving me quite an evil stare. When I enquired what the matter was, he replied that I was acting suspicious as I was photographing a landmark. I was standing in failry bright clothes with a tripod and camera setting up angles to get the splendour of the bridge... Needless to say, even though I tried to explain to him that I'm an amateur photographer doing long exposures, he still thought I was up to no good. He left me to carry on, and a short time later a member of Londons finest approached me as he had been told a suspicious character was photographing the bridge with what "seemed to be a premise to blow it up".... It took a bit of persuading to let the copper know that I wasn't, and showed him my pictures. He admitted that it was unlikely I was a bomber, but never the less asked me to desist and go home.

    I had to speak to my lawyer to ascertain what the repercussions would have been if I was arrested. He basically said the person on the bridge was a muppet and should have been cautioned for wasting police time. He never told me what my position was, but I assume from his comments that I would have been fine, if a little annoyed at my short incarseration...

    The point (too late!) is that anyone with a camera is generally regarded as up to no good. It's a bit like dog owners are now regarded as automatically bad owners...

  3. IHateWearingATie


    ...this clause will be used to basically prohibit any taking of photos of the police or their cars at any point whatsoever. As the article says, all the terror powers have been abused (can anyone say Ultra Viries?) and widened to be used in all circumstances and I suspect that this one will not be different.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Our Jacqui hasn’t completely taken leave of her senses"

    That'll be a first.

  5. Dave
    Paris Hilton

    A little reminder Jacqui

    There are a lot of photographers watching you. You so much as even think about restricting our current freedoms, you will be on the recieving end of a 70-210mm zoom lens inserted sideways.

    Or put another way, we need as many tourists as possible to replace all the money your bunch of shysters has spunked up the wall. Tourists have cameras. Are you going to deter them with ill thought out legislation?

    Thought not

    Paris, cos she knows all about big lenses

  6. Pat

    Walter Wolfgang a terrorist? Nonsense!

    Quote = 'the dividing line between political activism and involvement in Terror is increasingly fuzzy'.

    Gone beyond that I think.

  7. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    When's the next election?

    "Do you know where the local police station is?"

    "Yes, but I cannot tell you as that information could be of use to a terrorist."

  8. Dale

    Fair use

    So it is unlimited photography, but with a fair usage policy.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    With the way governments and authority over reacts I'm starting to think that freedom fighters have a point!!

    Society should be self sustaining, if the 'authorities' constantly feel underpowered and that it is 'them against us' then there is something wrong with authority. people should want politicians to improve society if politicians feel 'got at' they should retire. People should want police to enforce justice (not the law!), if the population feels persecuted then they wont support the Police. people should want to pay taxes to improve society education and health, but when they see gross neglect and pointless waste, resentment is born!

    George Orwell was wrong.. about 24 years wrong....

    AC because They are watching, from there wobbly perch.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    "This makes it an offence to "elicit or attempt to elicit information about" members of the armed forces, intelligence services, or policemen"

    So, if I don't want someone to know where I live, all I have to do is say that I live next to a policeman and my privacy is protected!

    Shame police women aren't offered the same level of protection, or is that a typo and should be "police officers", or members of the "police f[oa]rce"

    Paris, for the intelligence services remark!

  11. dervheid

    It's not a fuzzy dividing line...

    in NuLabourian ideology, the line is non existent.

    Political Activist = Terrorist.

    Freedoms = Gone.

    Jaquie = Fuckwit

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    She is not in charge, the rozzers are

    She's now got no choice but to either face them down and try to curb their excesses or change the law to accommodate their excesses.

    Since she's played the terrorist card a lot, and since the rozzers have direct media access and direct ability to bypass Parliament and lobby for what they want, she risks the police going to the press and undermining her with the 'soft on terrorism' label.

    More prime-time is given to the police on TV than to MPs, that says a heck of a lot.

    Look at the ANPR thing. The right to privacy means the rozzers should not be keeping details of cars not connected to crimes, yet they are. Whose going to face them down? It shouldn't even have been there choice, yet they took the power to decide to that, and ran with it and nobody in power and answerable to Parliament made that choice, and so Parliament did not decide it and the voter doesn't have their influence.

    What she'll do is another fake 'stakeholder' meeting where the stakeholders are victim support groups, police, chief constables, the local councils in charge of terrorism, etc. i.e. another Jacqui Smith preselected-group-designed-to-back-her-choice-after-the-fact consultation process. To make her look like she's sort of in charge and it's all just not happening underneath her.

    Teacher is never wrong, because it doesn't pay to appear wrong in front of the 'children'.

  13. Jimmy Floyd
    Paris Hilton

    "...the dividing line between political activism and involvement in Terror is increasingly fuzzy"


    Well it is, isn't it? Remind me when it is we get to vote them out?

    Paris, because she at least knows when she's being shafted.

  14. Adam Wynne

    Power Stations?

    Official Secrets Act defines a prohibited place as

    "...any place used for gas, water, or electricity works or other works for purposes of a public character ... which is for the time being declared by order of a Secretary of State to be a prohibited place for the purposes of this section..."

    So... taking photos of power stations isn't covered by the OSA unless Our Jackquie says so.

  15. GettinSadda

    War on...?

    It seems this is all caused by a mis-hearing.

    It is supposed to be a war a terrorism, but due to Bush's terrible pronunciation we are now fighting a war on tourism.

    Just think about it... T***rists go around with camera's taking pictures of famous buildings in the course of their T***rism. So arrest them!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    So when does

    Voting out a government become an act of Terrorism?

  17. Anony mouse

    people taking pictures of london landmarks...

    .. the swine.

    nail em up i say..

    next they'll be "cruising" the thames in "pleasure" boats.. underneath bridges, past the houses of parliament and everything..

    maybe next we can stop people getting on passenger planes.. you know just in case one of them has any wierd ideas..

    stay in your homes people.. at least that way we know where you all are and you can't cause any damage..

    and just so you know.. if you try to communicate with the outside world.. we have it tapped.. so don't try anything funny.. or dirty.. or any one of the other things that makes you a thinking, breathing human being.. or we'll outlaw that as well..

    it's for your own protection shee.. i mean people.. remember there is a 1168773.8 to 1 chance of you being killed in a terrorist attack...

    that is all..

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The people get the Government they deserve, the first commenter highlights how most of the country thinks. They're all retarded and deserve to get blown up by crazies, sadly the terrorists arn't too competent, fortunatly a good number will die in car accidents and chocking on their dinner.

    Meanwhile I need to move to a country with sensible people, a bit of freedom and some respect, I was thinking China.

  19. Hairy Sonofabeech

    Reasonable circumstances.

    "Decisions may be made locally to restrict or monitor photography in reasonable circumstances. That is an operational decision for the officers involved based on the individual circumstances of each situation"

    I'm glad there is some flexibility. Next time I venture the uni's animal labs, i would like the plods to be able to stop some hippy taking my photo and plastering it over the alf website. Just, you know... not fancying that much

  20. Les

    El Reg got it right

    "Our Jacqui hasn’t completely taken leave of her senses" is quite true in the sense that she was never actually in possession of any....

    Mine's the one with the DSLR round the neck and a compact in the pocket

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Yeah, but, no but yeah but no but...

    @ "All too familiar :o(" By Anonymous Coward:

    Maybe if you'd worn a "Google" jacket it would have been fine. Or do these rules apply to Google StreetView too? If so then I'm ROFL. I can guarantee that a google cam-car has "accidentally" taken photos of police, off (and possibly on) duty army/raf/navy, military establishments (some do appear in the middle of cities), land-marks, etc.

    Are we allowed to look at policemen/military establishments anymore? Isn't memory a form of "photography", esp. if you have a "photographic memory"?

    Paris because it probably violates some law or other.

  22. ShaggyDoggy


    I hope that the restriction on photographing policemen will include CCTV, they are cameras after all, and then we can get rid of the bloody pestilence, after all, a copper might stray into the view of one, most likely at any time in fact, given their abundance (CCTV that is, not coppers, erm, unless you parked on a double yellow 'just for a minute' in which case 3 squad cars will be there by the time you get out of the shop, but don't expect to see one at all if you report your car got broken into and everything stolen, no).

  23. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    So to sum it up... a nutshell, so to speak, these non-existent terrorists have basically won then?

    You can't go out in public and make a reasonable protest, you might be one.

    You can't take photographs of anything, unless it's 25 miles from the nearest building, you might be one.

    You want to buy a phone and you don't have a UK passport? You might be one!

    You don't want more CCTV, why ever not? You are obviously one!

    You don't agree with the uber-database for capturing all UK citizens communications? Hmm, tick in this little box here.

    You want to download information about various political groups around the world for your studies at a registered educational establishment? Oh dear me, not doing well are we?

    You don't want ID cards? You must be one, only a raving revolutionary with a Citizen Smith complex wouldn't want an ID card to prove their identity!

    Oh while we're at it, you can't go near schools in case you're a paedo, no good saying your kids are in attendance, you were waiting outside the gate with other suspicious, so called "parents"!

  24. Rob

    I for one...

    ...welcome our nu-labour overlords.

  25. John Murgatroyd



    We need to find out what the police have on Jacqui.

    Maybe some juicy pictures ?

    Or maybe some pap has got some pics of her with her knicks down.....and she's getting her own back ?

  26. Sir Runcible Spoon

    @So to sum it up

    " a nutshell, so to speak, these non-existent terrorists have basically won then?"

    Not exactly. The people using the non-existent terrorists to further their own agenda of population control have won.

    I'm off to buy a metal-mesh lined coat with cash whilst wearing a balaclava (tin foil lined of course).

  27. Tony

    @John Mrgatroyd

    'maybe some pap has got some pics of her with her knicks down'

    Thanks for that John.

    Can anyone advise on the best way to remove vomit from a laptop keyboard?

  28. Grant

    information of use to a terrorist = broad brush

    I quite often have my camera in my bag and take photos of various buildings, train stations, traffic, people etc. As it is impossible to avoid CCTV cameras sometimes I have a few photos of them too. I even went out and deliberately photographed nothing but CCTV cameras one day, figuring that they were almost a UK icon now! Clearly I will have pictures which could be of use to a terrorist and quite porobably pictures of restricted places too (well, how am I going to know which ones they are?).

    I've never had police tell me I couldn't, or even seem bothered that they were in the shot. I have had members of the public* scream at me that I shouldn't be taking a photo of their child (while taking a picture of the roof in the British Museum), been threatened by a market trader while taking street shots and told by shop staff that I couldn't photograph a shop window display as "I might be an industrial spy". The irony of a woman reading a "celebrity" magazine (in public) telling me she had a right to privacy and I couldn't take any photo with her in it wasn't lost on one of us at least.

    Maybe the next time I write a reminder in my diary while at the station I run the risk of being mistaken for a terrorist taking down vital timetable data.

    *or more precisely, paranoid idiots

  29. Giles Jones Gold badge


    I'm sure if you use a cameraphone you wouldn't get arrested. Why does a photographer with a decent lens = terrorist?

    If you're trying to secretly take pictures for use in planning a terrorist act then you would do it fairly covertly or just logon to Flickr and browse the thousands of readily available pictures of the same place.

  30. Slik Fandango

    How about mobile phone cams?

    Eh? It has been said before I'm sure - but terrorists don't want the attention until the act!

    So they will be using compacts and mobiles! Yet it only seems to be people with decent SLR / DSLRs that are being stopped.

    People called photographer paedo's out of suspicion, not helped by police or politicians, and the same is happening about terrorism - some big agendas somewhere...

    Mines the coat with a mobile and a compact in the pocket, a bag over the shoulder with a DSLR and a film SLR (yes they still exist!) and a few BIG lenses!

  31. Wokstation

    If I photograph an officer of the law or army...

    ..."elicit or attempt to elicit information about" - I am not eliciting anything. I am the one creating the information.


  32. Igor Mozolevsky
    Paris Hilton

    unsubstanciated suppositions

    Is there any quantitative proof that anyone who bombed anything actually photographed their target initially? Obviously anyone with a camera on them is either a terrorist or a pedophile... Oh hold on, don't mobile phones now have cameras too?!. The problem is that all these policy makers and other uneducated fools watch too much tv without actually engaging their brain for a nanosecond... Yey for more vexatious interference in our daily lives..

    Paris, because, I guess, she likes having her pictures taken!

  33. Dave


    "This makes it an offence to "elicit or attempt to elicit information about" members of the armed forces, intelligence services, or policemen, where this information could be of use to a terrorist."

    But I thought that, as public servants, they were required upon demand by a member of the public to give up information such as name, number, rank and branch of operation? Or was that removed years ago??

  34. michael aubert

    covert photography and auto-publish

    - Mobile phones these days have everything you need to automatically send every picture you take to an online repository immediately. Hell, you can stream video to an online repository that will turn it into a valid file if the connection is interrupted.

    - Cameras these days can be small enough to remain hidden while you take pictures.

    - Capturing audio can also be useful.

    I wonder: is "We would have acted differently if we had known we were recorded" a valid legal defence these days?

  35. David Hixson-Ward

    RSS Link

    I was trying to get to this from the RSS Link - when I couldn't, I thought that maybe its been taken down as its controversial....

    Mines the one with the rolled up D-Notice in the pocket

  36. Anonymous Coward


    Normaly, I find those comments humourous.

  37. Brian


    @Hairy Sonofabeech

    Try twatting the useless layabouts next time they try to take your photo.

    A defense along the lines of "allowing that photo to be taken would have put me in physical danger from a bunch of mad ferret lovers" should work, and if it doesn't, at least you'll have had the satisfaction of inflicting some damage on at least one waste of income support.

    If the police can restrict photography based on some illusory 'terrorist' threat, you should be allowed to do so based on a very real threat.

    Mine's the one with the hidden camera in the pocket.

  38. blackworx

    Darling Jackboot Jacqui and Chums,

    You tell us it's raining, but there you are the whole time pissing down our backs. You are a shower of complete and utter bastards.

    May the seed of your loins be fruitful in the belly of your woman,


    @ Wokstation:

    Yes, and stop calling me Shirley!

  39. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    eh what?

    So I'm not allowed to take photos of power stations or anything else the f**kwits in charge deam to be a terrorist target.

    Guess I'll have to make do with google maps view of things like Aldermarston Nuclear weapons site, Sizewell B, and the houses of Parliment.... with the additional bonus of I can zoom the view out and mark down any landmarks I can use as waypoints on my final flight to glory.......


    <<wondering when we can get some new leaders....

  40. Graham Wilson

    What goes on in the minds of these people?

    What goes on in the minds of these people?

    Mince meat perhaps?

    All that will do is to send those with evil intent underground. Lapel cameras, button cameras etc.

    Right, one can envisage the logical loony end to this: imagine a copper checking every male fly or female blouse that passes by to see if one of its buttons is running at 1680x1050x32bit colour?

    What next? Better check bees' eyes to see if their little 'radomes' aren't transmitting vital info to Al Quaeda.

    In the meantime, legit tourists, amateur photographers, anyone on legit business with a camera is stuffed, or so embarrassed to use the camera that he or she will not do so.

    Such utter nonsense at a time when multi-megapixel camera sensors really are smaller than buttons.

    ...On second thoughts, what marvelous material for a new Monty Python series. But this time we won't need the actors. Cleese, Palin, et al--you're out. We've plenty of coppers on the beat, and what's more we can film them clandestinely.

    Ought to be a real circus!


  41. Ad Fundum

    V for Vendetta

    That's all I'm saying.

  42. M Gale

    Seems a bit redundant.

    ^^^guilty as charged, your honour. I was indeed filming the police officers; they were f***ing everywhere. Difficult not to.

    This mean I get a fast-track to the NIR?

  43. corestore

    Reminds of a .sig file I saw recently...

    "Criticising the government is not illegal, but on investigation often turns out to be linked to other offences..."


  44. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Won't be long before...

    Criticism of the government/police/local authority becomes treason, punishable by goodness know what.

    It wasn't that long ago that the BBC series Spooks made you feel proud to be British and the good guys won. Nowadays, you're left wondering why they bother.

    Time to get one of those new fangled biometric id passports...

  45. Anonymous Coward


    " will be on the recieving end of a 70-210mm zoom lens inserted sideways..."

    Use the kit lens. It's no good for taking pictures anyway.

  46. Alan Fisher
    Dead Vulture

    Rule of Law by Sun

    Basically the 'working class' (according to Prescott, this includes people on the dole???) who read the Mirror, Mail & Sun think this is how the world runs and the "terrorists" (hahaha) are like the ones you see in the movies. So the govt is passing laws which it thinks it's foreigner hating, uneducated and angry mob key voters will agree with.

    These people tend to be;

    **Rather Patriotic

    **Very into 'Britishness'

    **Scared of anyone who looks different

    **Of conservative opinion

    **Rather 'old skool' Christian, at least nominally

    **Of the thought that most of us who post here are "Anti-British" subversives who 'appease' the "terrorists"

    **Believe all the "terrorist" gump we're being fed

    **Be unproportionately obsessed with 'celebrities', Madeline McCann, and their 'rights' while swallowing all of this to sign those rights away

    in short the lunatics ARE running the asylum and these people are being given the country they wanted (as someone else mentioned earlier. In short, we who would resist and demonstrate and oppose these measures are rapidly being labelled as either terrorists or their supporters while everyone else drifts on blissfully unaware of the changes in their country (as long as they know what Kerry Katona is up to, get their soaps and reality shows and know all dark skinned people are evil, they're happy). It's scary but it's happening and we're just "lefty loonies" when we point out the obvious to them....something needs to be done and soon...

  47. Loki


    walking around london... points to a random building. "Excuse me Mr Police Officer... what is that building?" Policeman: "Thats secret headquaters of the <insert name here>. Right, you are nicked for requesting information about a secret location".


  48. Ted Treen

    It's simple

    Political activism = supporting/working for NuLab

    Terrorism = supporting/working for anyone lse.

    Simple, really.

  49. Dark Hippo
    Black Helicopters


    "This makes it an offence to "elicit or attempt to elicit information about" members of the armed forces, intelligence services, or policemen"

    Assuming this means members of the police force, then if I unknowingly chat up an off duty police woman or member of the forces on leave and as her for her phone number, I can be arrested. F**king great.

  50. Anonymous Coward

    General Election or Revolution, now pl0x

    Had enough of this effing manure, if its 'nothing to hide - nothing to fear' when our telephone calls/e-mail/browsing habits/daily lawful activities are under the microscope, surely taking independent photos/video footage of anything and everything in the Public domain is a fair balance.

    Jacket, mines the one with the Fawkesian mask in.

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My rap sheet

    Number of collar feelings by the Filth for the heinous crime of using a camera in a suspicious manner:

    1987 - 2001 - 0

    2001 - 2005 - average about 1 every 6 months

    2005 - now - average about once every 6 weeks

    While it's usually polite, it's nevertheless intimidating and you end up looking over your shoulder every time you point a camera a a large structure.

    Polite can't be said, however, for the subnormal muppets employed as "security" everywhere these days, who would push the averages rather higher if included. One thing that does at least annoy this lot is treating them with contempt/scorn/disdain. A tory front bench type sneer is good, laughing at them seems to make some genuinely angry.

    I really really hate this open prison we live in.

  52. Mark


    That's why you should always ask the policeman for identification. Name, rank, number.

    Write it down.

    They are legally obliged to do this. In black and white, MUST.

    But it feels dangerous to them. You may be getting a complaint ready.

    And maybe they'll start to notice how asking questions just for the hell of it is not nice.

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @So when does

    "Voting out a government become an act of terrorism"

    When accountability and privacy is thrown out of the window and the old saying' power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely' comes into play.

    Say no to Webwise!

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    @Anonymous Coward Posted Tuesday 28th October 2008 12:34 GMT

    I did not vote for this bunch. I do not want this bunch. I cannot wait to get rid of this bunch (although I fear David Cameron and the 'new' Conservative Party are not going to be an awful lot better, and the rest are either Lib Dems (less use than a pile of shite in a hospital operating theatre) or some fool with one "policy" (normally a 'hot-button' topic like fortnightly bin collections or the 'save the local school/hospital/playing field/free car park)' but no freaking idea about any of the other thousands of things councillors or MPs are supposed to sort out for us and so even less use than a spoilt ballot paper).

    Exactly how do I qualify for your 'people get the government they deserve' comment?? Or the thousands of others who did not vote for Tory Bliar and his gang of "whiter-that-white" adulterers (Robin Cook et al), thieves (ex-Chancellor Gordon "I'm only going to steal your pensions this one time" (- actually no, you seem to be having an annual raid to bankroll your fuckups) Brown) and fascist control freaks (insert name of 'Secretary of State for...' Transport, BERR, The Home Office, Schools, Hospitals... hold on, why exactly *do* we need twice as many Ministers of (whatever) than when Bliar took over the Government?)...

    For a Government elected on an 'anti-sleaze' ticket, NuLabour seem to have managed to sweep quite a lot of filthy skeletons under other people's carpets...

    And I know where my nearest (open during the day AND night) police station is - does that mean I am liable to be arrested for possessing information of use to terrorists? Well, it's central London - now you're ALL in possession of the knowledge! Bwah-Ha-Ha! Can't arrest all of us... can they?

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