back to article Met warns officers off photographers

The Metropolitan Police has issued guidance to its officers to remind them that using a camera in public is not in itself a terrorist offence. There has been increasing concern in recent months that police have been over-using terrorism laws and public order legislation to harass professional and amateur photographers. The …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Oh look - good news!

    Get a photo, quick!

  2. ThomH

    Advice from an American?

    "the public do not need a license to take photographs in the street"? That's good, since they'd need to travel 3500 miles to find the nearest place that issues licenses.

  3. BoldMan
    Black Helicopters

    Well at last some common sense!

    "The Metropolitan Police has issued guidance to its officers to remind them that using a camera in public is not in itself a terrorist offence."

    About bloody time!

  4. Kevin Nolan

    Good News.

    This is good news. I could be moving to London next year and I was worried about heading out with my SLR. Fortunately the Cops here in Ireland seem to understand, ahem, not care.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    "The over-used Terrorism Act of 2000 does not ban photography either, although it does allow police to look at images on phones or cameras during a search to see if they could be useful to a terrorist."

    Cool, this means that I might be able to get the local plod to stump up for my developing costs (me being someone who still uses film). All I need to do is ensure that frame 36 is something innocuous which warrants interest from the nearest bobby. Ah. There the plan falls down - there's never one near when you want one.

  6. Wokstation
    Thumb Up

    Some refreshing news for once!

    I don't often approve of the Met with regard to photography, but in this instance I certainly do!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    This will change nothing

    There's still the problem of the police being given daily targets to fill, and they pick on photographers as a soft touch to make up the numbers.

    Photographers will still be hassled, it's just that they won't be lied to as much about having to delete their photos or threatened with arrest.

    Nothing will change.

  8. EdwardP


    ...are really beginning to improve in this country.

    While no great victory has been won, the mentality seems to have shifted away from the repressive, social divide & conquer tactics employed by Nu Labour.

    Perhaps they think they can convince the public that the past 10 years didn't happen in time for the Generals.

    Is it just me, or are we seeing the light at the end of the tunnel?

  9. the spectacularly refined chap

    It just shows how far we have regressed

    Ten years ago this would not have even been an issue: of course people have the right to photograph things in the street.

    This just goes to show how far the authorities have attempted to crush our civil liberties since 9/11. I really think it is time to get a sense of perspective: we lived with the on-going threat of terrorism from Northern Ireland for 30 years without the panic and trampling of our rights that has occurred since that event. Now there is not clear direction from where terrorism will be coming from, there re far fewer terrorist attacks and yet we need far more intrusions into our daily lives than we ever did when we were under a real terrorist threat.

  10. Jared Earle
    Black Helicopters

    The word isn't out yet

    "The same line of questioning and responses followed. We were then joined by officer xxxxx who again came from the Rochester end of the High Street. Once again the same line of questioning followed until such time I was arrested. At no time did I refuse to give an account for myself and my activities in the High Street."

  11. James 47

    "it does allow police to look at images"

    do this mean that the camera/phone has to be handed over so the police can look at the contents themselves, or is is sufficient to allow the police to 'shoulder-surf' while you show your images?

  12. Lupus
    Thumb Down

    "...useful to a terrorist"

    "The over-used Terrorism Act of 2000 does not ban photography either, although it does allow police to look at images on phones or cameras during a search to see if they could be useful to a terrorist."

    Yes, 'cos that's not subjective at all.

  13. JohnG

    Media and the public

    It is interesting that the MET appears worried about their relations with members of the media and how this might affect their media image but they never mentioned any concern about their treatment of members of the public and the maintenance of good relations with the public. Maybe the subtext is that the members of the general public should avoid coming into contact with officers of the MET unless someone in the media is pointing a camera at them. That doesn't sound quite right.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    police have no power


    There now, fixed.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Election officially imminent

    Funny, that. As soon as there's less than 11 months until there must be an election, officials start toning down the abuse of the public. Shall we start keeping track from now then?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Erm ...

    Shouldn't there now be a fair few prosecutions for unlawful arrest, harassment, assault, destruction of property, etc against various members of the constabulary?

  17. Brian Milner

    I've met the Met

    and I've got the bruises to prove it.

    - from a badge seen at the G20 protest.

  18. Jeff 10

    Happens in US as well

    I'm a part time photographer, and I get harassed when I take pictures downtown. Less by the police than building security guards. They tell me I can only take photos (of their building or others) if I step into the street (and get hit by the cars I'm not looking at while trying to take the pictures). Used to be this wasn't a problem until after the Patriot Act.

    "it does allow police to look at images on phones or cameras during a search to see if they could be useful to a terrorist." Hmmm, any picture of a public building *could* be useful to a terrorist. Not a very definitive guideline (not that you could easily produce a definitive guideline anyways).

  19. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    License / Licence

    Re : ThomH, "Advice from an American?" : License is "permission to", Licence is the "document which shows one is licensed to" ... or summat like that.

    It may not stop the rozzers hassling photographers but knowing that they have been reminded of what the law is gives an extra feeling of confidence when standing up to them when they overstep their powers.

    If there's also advice issued that it's not acceptable to kick three 'appence of crap out of someone just for being a smart arse, you can safely try that ;-)

  20. Xpositor
    Thumb Up

    Everybody take photos of police

    As often and as obviously as you can, and publish them widely; they'll soon tire of it then.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Met weather the storm of photographers

    The Met harass you for taking innocent photographs, tell you its against the law and that they want you to delete them. If you complain, raise your voice, sound angry, they threaten to arrest you for a public order offense.

    After the event you write and complain and get a letter in response. They state the law (which they have misused) and say they have again issued clear guidance to their officers clarifying the law. But guess what? Next day, next week the same thing happens again and again and again. Either the police cannot read or understand the 'clarification' or they are told to ignore the clarification and carry on harassing people because the law gives them the freedom to harass. So how did we get into the position of being harassed by our public servants?

    The question really is in whose name do they act? There isn't a me, you and a mysterious other group called the public that wants them to do this to maintain public order. We are the public and MP's are our servants. So who told the MP's to pass this law and its amendments in Parliament? It was the whips. Who told the whips what instructions to issue to MP's?...

    Now here is the bigger view. If you Google 'European Commission final report on ECHELON' you will find that they, no less, are concerned about US monitoring activities of EU citizens. It's all part of a huge enterprise to monitor where we go, what we say, what we like, what we spend our money on, who we know and who knows them. Not just in the UK, Europe or the US but globally. Everyone, everywhere is to be monitored.

    Its all done in the name of protecting the 'public' from terrorism. But there is no way the so called terrorists can do so much damage globally that this level a constant surveillance of over 4 billion people is justified. So the truth is really that the state is becoming scared of its own people. We should be complaining more about that than over a few deleted photographs. But oh no I have now expressed a different view making me and all of you terrorists for reading this far. Welcome to the new world order. Go and search Google.

  22. Anonymous Coward


    I live in Chatham and I think the crime committed by carrying a camera in the High Street would be "Being stupid enough to go equipped with something that is going to get robbed in very short order"

  23. Anonymous John


    They shouldn't need telling this isn't a police state.

  24. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    @ This will change nothing

    AFAIK the police do not have harassment targets, and only if they make an arrest it would become a statistic. A bit of reality, please.

  25. bob_blah
    Thumb Up

    So who's brave enough to test this then?

    The good thing is that when you're arrested and you DNA sample and fingerprints are added to the All-Knowing Database for the next twelve years, you'll enjoy a sense of rightous indignation at having been screwed over by the State once again, and for once, you'll know you're right because El Reg told you you are.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    High time...

    High time ... though I doubt it will make any difference, given the "us and them" attitude of so much of the police force these days.

    I wonder - thinking of photography, demo-control debacles and other incidences of an increasingly politicised police force - is there a single recorded incident of a police officer with enough moral fibre to say to his senior officers "This is NOT what I signed up for!"??

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "it does allow police to look at images"

    That should be fun...

    My Nikon DSLR allows the use of folders, I can have it showing only one folder on image playback before you can say 'ello 'ello.

    Even if I don't... "Of course I will delete that image officer"... *delete*

    Wait for policeman to leave, swap memory card, recover image later with PC file recovery software.

    Lucky they're about a technologically aware as my mother!

  28. jake Silver badge

    Idiots in charge.

    I have a coffee-table book containing high-quality photos of Westminster, including inside the not-open-to-tourists areas of Houses of Parliament and the private areas of Bucky the Talking Palace, amongst other places (Sandringham, et ali). The book contains floor plans and high quality aerial photography. I bought it at a used book seller's on Station Parade, between Albert Street & Victoria Avenue[1] in Harrogate about three decades ago. I assume that so-called "terrorists" can acquire similar materials on the used market.

    Taking pictures from the street is bloody useless in comparison. Anyone who thinks otherwise is, to put it bluntly, a fucking idiot who shouldn't be left alone with a toaster, much less be in charge of running a nuclear nation!

    [1] I think that's where it was. It was quite a while ago!

  29. Keith T

    A good start, but ...

    as John Dee says, shouldn't there now be a fair few prosecutions for unlawful arrest, harassment, assault, destruction of property, etc against various members of the constabulary?

  30. Justin Smith 1

    @ Jeff 10 re: Happens in US as well

    For what it's worth, Jeff, most sidewalks in the US are considered "easements," which means the city in which the building is situated *requires by law* that the sidewalk be made available for the traversal of the public. Building security guards have no right, under such a circumstance, to order you off the sidewalk, whether you are taking pictures or not. If they don't like your presence, and so long as you are on a public easement, their only legal recourse is to call the police, possibly under the charge of loitering or some such.

  31. MarkT

    Save a copy...

    Save a copy of the Met webpage and print it out for Plod to read while you take their photo....or PDF it and put it on your phone which is what I'll be doing. At the same time just mention that you'll be noting their badge number as you'll be needing this for the written harrassment complaint....

  32. Allan George Dyer


    But why is the Meteorological Office concerned about photographers?

    OK, OK, I'm going.

  33. Stacy
    Thumb Down

    @the spectacularly refined chap

    The light at the end of the tunnel is just a train coming the other way :) Nothings gonna change...

  34. elderlybloke

    Wot about Google?

    They have photographs of everything from satellites and the car has photographs of everything at ground level

    Are Google different from the casual snapper who gets hasselled by the Coppers.

    ps. Down here in NZ , I have not heard of anyone being oppressed by our Boys in Blue for being a photographer.

    I raise a glass in support of our Coppers

  35. lukewarmdog


    The police commission can restate the law as much as they want, it was always the law as any Mark Thomas fan will tell you. Download and carry his stop and search card.

  36. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Only for the tourists

    In the past couple of months I've read about Austrian tourists and Spanish tourists being treated like terrorists. I suppose if anything can scare the Met it's complaints appearing in the foreign press and lodged at embassies, the last thing the UK needs is another sector of the economy going titsup.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    1/10 (edit :apparently 1/10 is an insufficient tittle)

    The bastards need reminding about a lot of things, for example who pays their salary and who they work for.

  38. Anonymous Coward

    More pointless balm for the gullible

    Yawn. Another crowd pleaser from the met guaranteed to change nothing and ensure the 'we dont pick on ethnics' number balancing goes on. The pigs should not be allowed to look at images on a card at all without a warrant or an arrest on properly thought through grounds.

    The police are now so statistically obsessed that they no longer perform any actual function beyond providing a topic for tories and labour to argue in the opinion columns. We should all, without fail, lodge a complaint every single time one of Himmler's Little Helpers decides to balance up for the three Asians he pulled earlier in the week for driving expensive cars.

    Why do the pricks even bother wasting the paper.

  39. Anonymous Coward

    keep hold of your gear..

    It's also worth noting that no police officer, or any security officer (such as Mall security etc) have the right to confiscate a camera, camera equipment or film off you. If you really do upset PC Plod, the only way they can seperate you from your camera is by arresting you. CSOs and security guards have no right to confiscate camera equipment, all they can do is detain you pending the arrival of a full officer.

    (I think!!)

  40. Niall 1

    Good Relations

    Yes it's important to maintain good relations with the media, such as not investigating or prosecuting them for listening to peoples voice mails. Otherwise the MET might really find themselves in trouble.

  41. Ted Treen

    Will this save me money?

    Despite 20 yrs using Macs, Photoshop etc., I still use my Nikon 35mm systems - still preferring Fujichrome (+ my Nikon film scanner) to digital.

    Does this now mean that if Plod demands to see my photographs, I can expect Plod to pay for the processing of my Fujichrome, and to pay restitution + compensation if they "lose" my transparencies?

  42. Anonymous Coward

    Police called to St Marys Hospital, canal bridge

    We were taking our executive members photos on the bridge literally next to A&E at St Marys Hospital, Paddington. The bridge is over the Grand Unipon canal, complete with signs, BIG signs suggesting that people walk or cycle to work down it.

    The Police were called by some over-zealous person in a yellow jacket; who then demanded our passports as ID.

    The police had a conversation with our chairman, a notable very Senior Medical Consultant who was livid at the police attitude to a simple photograph.

    I published them just the same and the yellow-jacketed fool.

    Scroll down for the fun....................

  43. CrackedButter

    To add some balance

    I'm free to trawl the streets of Swansea without any policemen harassing me. Why? I told them at the station and informed them of what I was doing, any stoppage I could get and they can then phone through but they never have done. Problem solved and now I have a good relationship with the police here. The ones on the street know me especially and inform their colleagues before they say anything. Job done.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wrong, Wrong, Wrong.

    CrackedButter - No it is not job done. Why the hell should you or I have to inform anyone that we are conducting ourselves in a lawful manner?

  45. Bruno de Florence
    Thumb Up

    click click

    ok, good move, but let's see how those guidelines are acted upon by mr+mrs plod on the ground. i am one of the hobbyist photographers who participated to the demo outside scotland yard in feb 2009. my pics of the event are on

  46. Walking Turtle

    @Wrong, Wrong, Wrong.

    "Why the hell should you or I have to inform anyone that we are conducting ourselves in a lawful manner?"

    Because you and I and all our beloveds, friends and neighbors too have all been softly, silently and snarkily put into the NeoPosition of being presumed GUILTY of CRIME on sight now these days, instead of the Right Thing being presumed as was so in the past.

    It is a process that has a name. The Name of the Process is called "ponerization". Google [ "Political Ponerology" + Lobicziewski + download + .pdf ] and glom the whole book from Red Pill Press.

    Parallel reading: "The Mask of Sanity" by Hervey Cleckley MD. Ditto re the .pdf download - it is evidently now donated to society at large by the author as a Survival Manual. I get the same "feel" from reading about Lobiczievski, who now is a very aged man, as well.

    Signs of the times imvho. Because one must *have* the truth in order to *handle* the truth, is why.

    The Boffin, because to gain a useful understanding of evil without becoming a practitioner thereof ones' own self at all in any given lifetime is a High Attainment of the Genuine Science. All others are predictably gone to the Dark Side and got a quindillion dirty-gained quatlooz stashed away in Antigua or somewhere no doubt.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    never been too bothered

    I'm happy to delete pictures if the police cause a fuss, but then my DSLR takes 2 memory cards, a large compactflash, and a small non-obvious xd card, and can easily be set to store images to both at once. However it only displays the contents of one of them, and anything deleted will only be deleted from the currently selected card. Selecting the other card is buried somewhere in the menus

  48. Catkins

    It's always the hobby bobbies

    Somone ought to remind Cleveland Police about the law, as they've just detained a local newspaper journalist and photographer under the Terrorism Act

    The response of the Assistant Chief Constable to yet another PCSO overreaction? Concern? An Apology? Retraining? Nope.

    "Cleveland Police do have a right to ask for identification to establish the purpose of those who might be involved in photography around crowded built up urban areas and public space"

  49. NotaSheep

    Copy of the "guidance"

    And where can we get a copy of this "guidance" so we can show it to over-officious policeman? The looks I get from the Police when I am photographing on the street are quite intimidating; it seems that because I have a "proper camera" I am more suspicious than someone with a compact with the same size zoom...

  50. John Tuffen

    Photography ain't illegal, but it'll get you noticed...

    (About the "Harry Potter" actor done for cannabis possession)

    "Police seized the camera after [Waylett] was arrested for taking a picture of officers as he and his friend John Innis, 20, drove past, the court was told."

    "Waylett and Innis were stopped under the Terrorism Act in Lodge Road, St John's Wood, west London, after the actor took a photograph of a police patrol."

    That pesky terrorism act coupled with shy policemen...

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