Photography law – epetition response

This was published today on No10.gov.uk, the official site of the prime ministers office –

Photography law – epetition response

We received a petition asking:

“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to clarify the laws surrounding photography in public places.”

Details of Petition:

“Through history, we have documented the world around us, whether through written word, art or photography. Photography in particular has provided fantastic insights into the past and present, and is a hobby enjoyed by millions of people worldwide. But today, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to take photos of our surroundings, particularly in cities like London. In recent years, the price divide between professional and consumer equipment has blurred, and it’s quite common these days to see amateurs and hobbyists carrying around tripods, SLR cameras and a backpack full of equipment. Yet, we are constantly harrassed by security guards and police officers in the name of preventing terrorism. They seem to be operating under a different interpretation of the law to the rest of us, believing that somehow the length of your lens, or size of your camera is relevant. We would like clarification by the goverment on the law regarding photography of buildings and landmarks from public locations.”

· Read the petition
· Petitions homepage

Read the Government’s response

Thank you for your e-petition asking for clarification of the law on photography in public places.

There are no legal restrictions on photography in public places. However, the law applies to photographers as it does to anybody else in a public place. So there may be situations in which the taking of photographs may cause or lead to public order situations, inflame an already tense situation, or raise security considerations. Additionally, the police may require a person to move on in order to prevent a breach of the peace, to avoid a public order situation, or for the person’s own safety or welfare, or for the safety and welfare of others.

Each situation will be different and it would be an operational matter for the police officer concerned as to what action if any should be taken in respect of those taking photographs. Anybody with a concern about a specific incident should raise the matter with the Chief Constable of the relevant force.

In my view the response provides any police officer with the power to order photographers to move on or to stop what they are doing if it suits the purposes of the officer in question in any given circumstance. If anyone feels they have been mistreated by an officer exercising their duty they can complain but only to the police authority in question. No conflict of interest there then!

Nothing new in any of this but it strikes me that the response is nothing more than contemptuous given that the petition requested a clarification (for the benefit of the police and photographers alike) and not merely paraphrasing that which already stands.

Like so much that most governments put out the message is conveyed in a way such that anyone who argues against it can be made to seem unreasonable and going against the greater good.

Sure many of us can agree how wrong this is and feel mildly empowered by the consent that is formed in groups within a common interest. As individuals though I would bet heavily we would find ourselves hung out to dry while the masses looked on if we ever dared to test the extent of our supposed rights to freedom and self determination.

It does not take much to see through the facade yet sadly the general public have very little influence or power to change these things.

I wish I had something upbeat and powerful to say about this but I have nothing. Of course this is not just about photography. The same stance is applied wherever governments wish to exercise control. Our freedom is being eroded in the name of protecting our safety and welfare. Opposing a stance like that is like wrestling with jelly.

4 Comments

  1. Yeah, it’s a crap response. Saying that photography might “raise security considerations” only begs the question of what those considerations might be. Guidelines, please. Which was, of course, the entire point of the petition in the first place.

    The oddest thing that I’ve heard on this subject was quite recently, when I read that the BT Tower in London was covered by the Official Secrets Act until the mid-1990s. It wasn’t marked on maps and you weren’t allowed to photograph it!

  2. Good to be in touch Hg. I’d heard something along those lines as well about the BT Tower. A classic example. As for guidelines though not entirely covering the same ground I’d forgotten but was reminded by a discussion thread in Flickr Central that the National Police Improvements Agency (NPIA) issued guidance to the police regarding this matter. The guidance is –

    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 should not prevent people taking photographs unless they are in an area where photography is prevented by other legislation.

    If officers reasonably suspect that photographs are being taken as part of hostile terrorist reconnaissance, a search under section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000 or an arrest should be considered. Film and memory cards may be seized as part of the search, but officers do not have a legal power to delete images or destroy film. Although images may be viewed as part of a search, to preserve evidence when cameras or other devices are seized, officers should not normally attempt to examine them.

    Cameras and other devices should be left in the state they were found and forwarded to appropriately trained staff for forensic examination. The person being searched should never be asked or allowed to turn the device on or off because of the danger of evidence being lost or damaged.

    A bit more comment about the the guidance and related issues here.

  3. Pingback: Yeah cheers Ken. Nice to see you to. | monaxle : blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.