Friday, 4 December 2009

Independent highlights police abuse of Section 44 anti-terror law against photographers

The Independent today continues to highlight fears that police officers are abusing the Section 44 anti-terror legislation to stop and question photographers taking pictures of famous landmarks.
Yesterday, The Independent reported concern that police forces across the country are misusing the Section 44 legislation granted to them under the Terrorism Act, which allows them to stop anyone they want in a pre-designated area, without the need for suspicions of an offence having been committed.
It followed journalist Jerome Taylor being stopped by police while taking nighttime shots of the Houses of Parliament. He was asked to give his height, name, address and ethnicity – all of which was recorded in a form that will now be held at the nearest police station for the next year. The form explained why he had been stopped: "Using a camera and tripod next to Westminster Bridge."
The Indy reports today that photographers have complained that they are regularly stopped while taking pictures and are treated like terrorists on reconnaissance missions. This is despite the act giving officers no power to seize cameras or demand the deletion of photographs.
It quotes Jeff Moore, chairman of the British Press Photographers' Association (BPPA), stating: "The main problem we face is that Section 44 is an extremely poor piece of legislation that creates an enormous amount of confusion, both among the public and among the police officers that use it."
Moore said police have ignored the BPPA's requests over the past four years to have photographers talk to newly qualified police constables during their media training. He said: "We're not trying to fight the police, we're trying to work with them."
Shami Chakrabarti, the director of civil liberties group, tells the Independent: "Hassling photographers and preventing them from carrying out perfectly ordinary assignments helps nobody, but blame must rest squarely with Parliament. It is time for this blunt and overly broad power to be tightened," she said.
In a comment piece, Magnum photographer Stuart Franklin tells how he was stopped by police on a journalistic assignment in Regent's Park.

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