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Met police told to respect photographers’ rights

15 December 2009

The Metropolitan Police in London has reissued guidance to its officers telling them not to obstruct law-abiding photographers from taking photos. The NUJ has welcomed their decision their action.

The force has come under pressure over recent months from both professionals and amateurs who have complained of being stopped under anti-terror laws simply for taking pictures in public places.

The NUJ has been calling on the authorities to do more to ensure that police officers are made aware of the strict limitations on their powers under the Terrorism Act 2000.

A statement issued on Monday by the Met's John Yates, Assistant Commissioner Specialist Operations, makes it clear that officers need to use common sense:

"Unless there is a very good reason, people taking photographs should not be stopped."

The guidance goes on to say that:

  • there is no restriction on people taking photographs in public places or of any building other than in very exceptional circumstances
  • there is no prohibition on photographing front-line uniform staff
  • the act of taking a photograph in itself is not usually sufficient to carry out a stop.

In his statement Mr Yates goes on to say that officers must act responsibly when using powers under the terrorism act:

"These are important yet intrusive powers. They form a vital part of our overall tactics in deterring and detecting terrorist attacks. We must use these powers wisely. Public confidence in our ability to do so rightly depends upon your common sense. We risk losing public support when they are used in circumstances that most reasonable people would consider inappropriate."

John Toner, NUJ freelance organiser, welcomed the statement:

"Clearly the fact that the Met have decided to reissue this advice shows that they realise there is a need for people to be made aware of the guidelines.
"The message is still not getting through to officers on the ground and what we now need is a clear indication from the police as to their next steps to ensure that all officers are aware of their obligations under law."

Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, added:

"The livelihoods of many of our members depend on being able to take the shots they need and quickly file their images. All too often photographers complain to us of being obstructed from doing their jobs by officers who seem to believe anyone with a camera is a terrorist.
"It's good to see senior leaders at the Met once again reminding officers about their responsibilities. We'll be watching carefully to see whether it actually results in fewer problems for our members getting on with their jobs."

Tags: , metropolitan police, guidelines, police, photographers, press freedom, terrorism act