Met Police changes photography guidance
30 July 2009
The Metropolitan Police has changed its public guidance on photography to reflect concerns raised by the NUJ.
An earlier version of the advice on the Met's website was criticised by the union because it implied officers had greater powers under counter-terror legislation than the law provides.
The webpage covering the guidance was amended yesterday and the NUJ is now calling on the force to ensure that officers on the ground in London are made aware of their responsibilities towards the media.
The NUJ's legal officer Roy Mincoff had spoken out against the original advice because it stated that Section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000 gave officers the right to view images that had been taken. However, this is only true where the person concerned is actually suspected of being a terrorist – a far higher test than was originally implied.
Speaking about the change to the guidelines, Roy Mincoff said:
"It is good to see that the police have listened to some of what we've been saying and the new guidance is certainly an improvement. We still have significant concerns about the way counter-terrorism legislation is being used to impinge on media freedoms, so it is vital that any guidance issued by the police is accurate and recognises the importance of a free press.
"Let's hope that this marks a recognition on the part of the police that they must take the concerns of photojournalists seriously. We will be monitoring to see if the changes are reflected in practice."
The guidance includes a statement making it clear that the police do not have the power to stop the media from filming and taking photographs in public places. The police now recognise the specific protections that are afforded to the media. It warns officers that they cannot demand to see images taken for journalistic purposes without a court order.
John Toner, NUJ Freelance Organiser, added:
"What we need now is a cultural shift across the police force that means officers understand their responsibilities to the media and don't obstruct journalists from doing their jobs. It is in the long-term interests of both the press and the police that we get this right. Whilst accurate guidance is always welcome, it is what happens on the ground that matters."