Forgive me if this seems a little self pitying, but photographers in the UK seem to be fighting a losing battle both with members of the public and with the police (or more accurately community support officers, security guards and police officers who are ignorant of the law on photography in a public place). More and more reports are being written of photographers who take pictures in public places having to undergo stop and search and confiscation of their cameras and equipment if deemed to be acting in a suspicious manner.
Amateur Photographer (AP) are leading the charge on behalf of photographers in the UK, letting them know their rights and keeping them abreast of stories and updates that may help them to maintain their right to photograph in public places.
This month according to an article in AP, the Bureau of Freelance Photographers have launched a rights card known as the ‘Blue Card’, which they hope will help to tackle the problem head on by letting photographers know their rights, and providing a portable card that can be shown to Police officers and Community Support patrols who are less than clear on the subject.
Of course under the Terrorism Act 2000, police can stop and search anyone regardless of whether they suspect them of carrying out anything to do with terrorism (hmmm), however according to the Association of Chief Police Officers spokeswoman Alexandra Coleman, quoted in an article with AP once an image has been recorded the police
‘have no power to delete or confiscate it without a court order’.
What seems slightly confusing is that the officer, if remaining suspicious of the images shown, or the intentions of the photographer, can seize the camera and the photographer under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.
Confused!? Well, my advice, if a community support officer or a member of the local constabulary approaches you and asks you what you are doing, explain who you are and the project you’re working on. Show them your images (if you shooting digital) , but above all remain polite. Knowledge is power, make sure you have read the information around in photography magazines and/or contact your local photographic association for clarification if need be of your rights to photograph in public places.
If our government get it’s way 42 days detention without charge will be law sometime between now and 2010, we best get practicing our best yes sir no sir routine, as it would seem photographers are in the forefront of being hounded off the streets, just like African Caribbean’s were during the 70s and 80s, Muslims in the 90s and especially post 9/11, who the bloody hell will be next?.