Phil Smith thought ex-EastEnder Letitia Dean turning on the Christmas lights in Ipswich would make a good snap for his collection.
The 49-year-old started by firing off a few shots of the warm-up act on stage. But before the main attraction showed up, Smith was challenged by a police officer who asked if he had a licence for the camera.
After explaining he didn't need one, he was taken down a side-street for a formal "stop and search", then asked to delete the photos and ordered not take any more. So he slunk home with his camera.
People were still taking photos with mobile phones and pocket cameras, so maybe it was because mine looked like a professional camera with a flash on top, he says. It's a sad state of affairs today if an amateur photographer can't stand
in the street taking photographs.
Austin Mitchell MP has tabled a motion in the Commons that has drawn on cross-party support from 150 other MPs, calling on the Home Office and the police to educate officers about photographers' rights.
Mitchell, himself a keen photographer, was challenged twice, once by a lock-keeper while photographing a barge on the Leeds to Liverpool canal and once on the beach at Cleethorpes.
Photographers have every right to take photos in a public place, he says, and it's crazy for officials to challenge them when there are so many security cameras around and so many people now have cameras on phones. But it's usually inexperienced
Steve Carroll was another hapless victim of this growing suspicion. Police seized the film from his camera while he was out taking snaps in a Hull shopping centre. They later returned it but a police investigation found they had acted correctly
because he appeared to be taking photographs covertly.
And photographer enthusiast Adam Jones has started an
online petition on the Downing Street website urging the prime minister to clarify the law. It has gained hundreds of supporters.
Holidaymakers to some overseas destinations will be familiar with this sort of attitude - travel guides frequently caution readers that innocently posing for a snapshot outside a government building could lead to some stern questions from local
But in Britain this sort of attitude is new. So what is the law?
If you are a normal person going about your business and you see something you want to take a picture of, then you are fine unless you're taking picture of something inherently private, says Hanna Basha, partner at solicitors Carter-Ruck.
There are also restrictions around some public buildings, like those involved in national defence.
Child protection has been an issue for years, says Stewart Gibson of the Bureau of Freelance Photographers, but what's happened recently is a rather odd interpretation of privacy and heightened fears about terrorism: They [police, park
wardens, security guards] seem to think you can't take pictures of people in public places. It's reached a point where everyone in the photographic world has become so concerned we're mounting campaigns and trying to publicise this.
There's a great deal of paranoia around but the police are on alert for anything that vaguely resembles terrorism. It's difficult because the more professional a photographer, paradoxically, the more likely they are to be stopped or
questioned. If people were using photos for terrorism purposes they would be using the smallest camera possible.
The National Union of Journalists has staged a demo to highlight how media photographers are wrongly challenged by police.
In May last year, Thames Valley Police overturned a caution issued to photographer Andy Handley of the MK News in Milton Keynes, after he took pictures at the scene of a road accident.
Guidelines agreed between senior police and the media were adopted by all forces in England and Wales last year. They state that police have no power to prevent the media taking photos. They state that once images are recorded, [the police]
have no power to delete or confiscate them without a court order, even if [the police] think they contain damaging or useful evidence.
And in the case of Phil Smith, an official complaint about the Christmas lights incident helped sort matters out. Not only did he receive a written apology from Suffolk Police, but also a visit from an inspector, who explained that the officer, a
special constable, had acted wrongly.
A householder who took photographs of hooded teenagers as evidence of their anti-social behaviour says he was told he was breaking the law after they called the police.
David Green left his London flat to take photographs of the gang, who were aged around 17, he said one threatened to kill him while another called the police on his mobile.
And he claimed that a Police Community Support Officer sent to the scene promptly issued a warning that taking pictures of youths without permission was illegal, and could lead to a charge of assault.
Green, a television cameraman, said he was appalled that the legal system's first priority seemed not to be stopping frightening anti-social behaviour by aggressive youths, but protecting them from being photographed by the concerned public.
Southampton City Council has apologised to two women pensioners after a worker reprimanded them for photographing a deserted paddling pool over fears about paedophiles.
The council said staff would now be advised to use their discretion when seeing people taking photographs at the pool on Southampton Common, the council said today.
Betty Robinson and Brenda Bennett had taken snaps of the pool area when the female council worker ordered them to stop.
Mrs Robinson told the Southern Daily Echo: It's absolutely ridiculous. After asking why we couldn't take photos she told us those were the rules. It's pathetic - bureaucracy gone mad.
Mike Harris, head of leisure and inanity at Southampton City Council, said in a statement: 'I'm sorry if we have caused any offence on this occasion: A lot of people are more concerned about the safety of their children these days so it is
appropriate that our staff are aware of who is taking photos.
Photographic Privacy International's fated struggle to stop the Google spy car stalking this country's streets has reminded me of my own brush with London's photography police recently.
I was being photographed in Covent Garden. As I followed the photographer's instructions and tried to come up with a smile that would get people running to the nearest shop to buy my book, a security guard on patrol around the piazza walked up
and stood between the photographer and me. The guard was quite a determined professional; he put one hand in front of the camera lens and muttered darkly into his walkie-talkie.
Why would a potential terrorist (or people exhibiting suspect behaviour, as the Met likes to describe them in its anti-terror publicity) pose in front of an organic cosmetics stall and religiously follow the instructions of a white, female
professional photographer who looked nothing if not an infidel? The photographer tried to test the resolve of the security guard by stepping out of the covered area and making me pose in front of a column. But the guard followed and covered the
lens again; he looked like a man with a mission to save London from desperate debut writers and their collaborators in the photographic professions.
In the ensuing hour we were chased away from Nehru's bust outside the Indian High Commission, and Citibank. Even the folks at Australia House descended on us after we had set up the tripod, I had perfected my writerly pose and we were only
waiting for the clouds to part.
The following apology was printed in the Guardian's Corrections and clarifications column, Saturday August 2 2008
Contrary to a statement we made in the column below, the Metropolitan Police do not require professional photographers operating in central London to hold a police permit and wear a radio-linked ID tag. The material on which this part of the
column was based was a hoax. This has been corrected. We apologise for its use.
This referred to a section of the Guardian article:
The photographer, very bitter by now, told me that the police treat anyone with professional photography equipment as a suspect. According to the professional group Editorial Photographer UK, if you want to take pictures in
central London you have to apply for a permit at Charing Cross police station. The approval can take up to 28 days. Then, as a part of Photo Safety Identity Checking Observation you are required to wear "a thin fluorescent waistcoat"
kitted with radio frequency identification (RFID) tag. The Met has assured the photographers that RFID is a cheap and "passive device that needs no batteries".
A spokesperson for the Met told the photographers' group earlier this year that cameras are potentially more dangerous than guns.
A man was labelled a terrorist after he took a picture of a police car parked at a bus stop.
David Gates found himself being questioned under the Terrorism Act after he spotted the BMW in the middle of the box reserved for buses, and decided to capture the image on his phone – apparently falling foul of the anti-terror law in the
Gates was then questioned by two officers who asked why he had snapped the picture of their vehicle, and they told him he was being quizzed under the Terrorism Act 2000 because the picture could pose a security risk.
They also said this law gave them the right to use stop-and-search powers.
He said: I explained I'd taken the picture as their car was parked illegally, and taking a photograph in public was not illegal. I told them I thought using the Terrorism Act and suspecting me of being a terrorist was ridiculous.
Gates said he co-operated with the officers and gave his details, which were checked. He was told the record of the incident would be kept on file for a year.
Mike Hancock, the Lib Dem MP for Portsmouth South, said: 'The whole thing is quite bizarre. I don't have a problem with them parking at the bus stop, but I do have a problem with them using this legislation for something trivial like this and
keeping it for a year.
Superintendent Neil Sherrington, the deputy commander for Portsmouth police, said: Officers are given powers under the Terrorism Act to stop and search. The act states that "this power can only be used for the purposes of searching for
articles of a kind which could be used in connection with terrorism, and may be exercised whether or not the constable has grounds for suspecting the presence of articles of that kind".
When Andrew Carter saw a police van ignore no-entry signs to reverse up a one-way street to reach a chip shop, he was understandably moved to protest to the driver.
But his complaint brought a volley of abuse from PC Aqil Farooq. And when Mr Carter took a picture of the van then tried to photograph the officer, PC Farooq rushed out of the shop and knocked his camera to the ground.
Carter was then arrested and bundled into the van over claims he had 'assaulted' an officer with his camera, resisted arrest and was drunk and disorderly.
He was held in a police cell for five hours before being released on bail at midnight. Carter was never charged with any offence.
Carter lodged a complaint and has since received a personal apology from PC Farooq and Rob Beckley, deputy chief constable of Avon and Somerset Constabulary. The force refused to comment on the case, except to say that the disciplinary process
was resolved to Carter's 'satisfaction'.
UK Police are using draconian anti-terrorism powers against trainspotters, it has emerged.
Enthusiasts innocently taking photographs of carriages and noting serial numbers have ludicrously been accused of behaving like a reconnaissance unit for a terror cell.
The Prevention of Terrorism Act 2000 has been used to stop a staggering 62,584 people at railway stations. Another 87,000 were questioned under separate stop and search and stop and account legislation.
The figures were uncovered by Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Norman Baker, who warned that Britain was sliding towards a police state. While it is important to be vigilant about the threat of terrorism to the transport network, the sheer
scale of the number of people stopped by police on railway property is ridiculous.
The anti-terror laws allow officers to stop people for taking photographs and I know this has led to innocent trainspotters being stopped. This is an abuse of anti-terrorism powers and a worrying sign that we are sliding towards a police
I wonder what this achieves even for the police. How many times has a resultant search actually revealed anything. It would seem sensible that real terrorists would hardly carry any incriminating evidence whilst out photographing. All this nasty
policy does is make people hate the police even more. Surely not a good thing for Britain's security.
Reuben Powell is an unlikely terrorist. A white, middle-aged, middle-class artist, he has been photographing and drawing life around the capital's Elephant & Castle for 25 years.
With a studio near the 1960s shopping centre at the heart of this area in south London, he is a familiar figure and is regularly seen snapping and sketching the people and buildings around his home. But to the policemen who arrested him last week
his photographing of the old HMSO print works close to the local police station posed an unacceptable security risk.
The car skidded to a halt like something out of Starsky & Hutch and this officer jumped out very dramatically and said 'what are you doing?' I told him I was photographing the building and he said he was going to search me under the
Anti-Terrorism Act, he recalled.
For Powell, this brush with the law resulted in five hours in a cell after police seized the lock-blade knife he uses to sharpen his pencils. His release only came after the intervention of the local MP, Simon Hughes, but not before he was
handcuffed and his genetic material stored permanently on the DNA database.
But Powell's experience is far from uncommon. Every week photographers wielding their cameras in public find themselves on the receiving end of warnings either by police, who stop them under the trumped up justification of Section 44 of the
Terrorism Act 2000, or from over-eager officials who believe that photography in a public area is somehow against the law.
Groups from journalists to trainspotters have found themselves on the receiving end of this unwanted attention, with many photographers now fearing that their job or hobby could be under threat.
Yet, according to the Association of Chief Police Officers, the law is straightforward. Police officers may not prevent someone from taking a photograph in public unless they suspect criminal or terrorist intent. Their powers are strictly
regulated by law and once an image has been recorded, the police have no power to delete or confiscate it without a court order. This applies equally to members of the media seeking to record images, who do not need a permit to photograph or film
in public places, a spokeswoman said.
But still the harassment goes on. Philip Haigh, the business editor of Rail magazine, said the bullying of enthusiasts on railway platforms has become an unwelcome fact of life in Britain: It is a problem that doesn't ever seem to go away. We
get complaints from railway photographers all the time that they are told to stop what they are doing, mainly by railway staff but also by the police. It usually results in an apologetic letter from a rail company .
Conservative MP Andrew Pelling has said he was stopped and searched by police on suspicion of being a terrorist after taking photographs of a cycle path.
The MP for Central Croydon was stopped by police under trumped up anti-terrorism laws on December 30.
Despite him showing his House of Commons pass to the officers, they insisted on searching him after they found him taking photos of a cycle path in his area.
He told police that he was taking photos to highlight a long-neglected bicycle and pedestrian route, which had been of concern to his constituents and that he was intending on taking the photos to Parliament to illustrate the dangers
posed by the protracted maintenance works.
But the two officers insisted on searching him after they told him they thought he was taking photos of East Croydon train station. They searched his bag, but after finding nothing of interest they sent the MP on his way.
A police spokeswoman said: An officer stopped and searched a man's bag in Cherry Orchard Road on December 30, under section 44 of the Terrorism Act. The officer conducted a stop-and-search, taking into account the current terror threat, as he
was taking pictures in the vicinity of a major transport hub.
No tourist trip to London is complete without a set of holiday snaps. But a father and son were forced to return home to Austria without their pictures after policemen deleted them from their camera - supposedly in a bid to prevent terrorism.
Klaus Matzka and his son, Loris from Vienna, were taking photographs of a double-decker bus in Walthamstow, north-east London, when two policemen approached them.
Austrian tourists Klaus and Loris Matzka were ordered to delete pictures of a London double decker in Walthamstow
The tourists were told it is strictly forbidden to take pictures of anything to do with public transport and their names, passport numbers and hotel address in London were noted.
Matzka was then forced to delete any holiday snaps that featured anything to do with transport.
The Metropolitan Police said it was investigating the allegations and had no knowledge of any ban on photographing public transport in London. [yeah yeah]. A spokeswoman added: It is not the police's intention to prevent tourists from taking
photographs and we are looking into the allegations made.
Jenny Jones, a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority and a Green party member of the London assembly, said the incident was 'another example of the police completely overreaching the anti-terrorism powers'. She said she would raise the
issue with the Met chief, Sir Paul Stephenson, as part of the discussion into police methods at the G20 protests, adding: I have already written to him about the police taking away cameras and stopping people taking photographs.
Police have been accused of misusing powers granted under anti-terror legislation after a series of incidents, ranging from the innocuous to the bizarre, in which photographers were questioned by officers for taking innocent pictures of tourist
destinations, landmarks and even a fish and chip shop.
Police are allowed to stop and search anyone in a designated Section 44 authorisation zone without having to give a reason. But amateur and professional photographers have complained that they are frequently being stopped and treated as
potential terrorists on a reconnaissance mission. Last night the Government's independent reviewer of anti-terrorism laws warned police forces to carefully examine how they use the controversial legislation.
Speaking to The Independent, Lord Carlile of Berriew said: The police have to be very careful about stopping people who are taking what I would call leisure photographs, and indeed professional photographers. The fact that someone is taking
photographs is not prima facie a good reason for stop and search and is very far from raising suspicion. It is a matter of concern and the police will know that they have to look at this very carefully, he added.
Lord Carlile's comments come just days after a BBC journalist was stopped and searched by two police community support officers as he took photographs of St Paul's Cathedral. Days earlier Andrew White was stopped and asked to give his name and
address after taking photographs of Christmas lights on his way to work in Brighton. And in July Alex Turner, an amateur photographer from Kent, was arrested after he took pictures of Mick's Plaice, a fish and chip shop in Chatham.
Most of those stopped are told they are being questioned under Section 44, a controversial power which allows senior officers to designate entire areas of their police force regions as stop-and-search zones. More than 100 exist in London alone,
covering areas such as the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and other landmarks. Every train station in the UK is covered by a Section 44 order. But, due to the fear that the information could be used by terrorists to plan attacks, most of
the the exact locations covered by Section 44 authorisations are kept secret, meaning members of the public have no idea if they are in one or not.
Surely it can't help security, against bombs and the likes, to make these petty officials into enemies of the people who are best avoided. At the moment one would have to have a pretty compelling reason before reporting anything suspicious to the
authorities, lest it's yourself that gets into trouble.
A UK rail passenger who took photographs of an overcrowded train carriage was threatened with arrest under anti-terror laws.
Nigel Roberts was so appalled by the cramped conditions commuters have to endure he warned a ticket inspector that dangerous overcrowding could cost lives.
But when he showed his mobile phone photos of luggage-crammed aisles and exits he was told it is illegal to take such pictures and threatened with prosecution.
The inspector then demanded Roberts' personal details as Roberts explained: When I told him I had taken some photos he said it was illegal under the Terrorism Act and that I could be arrested and demanded my name and
He said there were police officers on the train and I may be arrested for taking the photographs. He said he had powers given to him under the Railways Act to ask me for the information and it was an even more serious
offence for me not to comply.
I felt as if I was in a police state. He explained that for some reason it was for my own protection but my argument was that every passenger on the train would have needed protection in the event of an emergency.
He told me he would make a note of our conversation so that they could be used in the event of a prosecution. He was pleasant enough but it was a frightening and chilling experience for me.
A spokeswoman for South West Trains - owned by the Stagecoach group - said: Staff are aware they need to be particularly attentive to unusual photos being taken or suspicious behaviour and to challenge this if necessary.
However this was clearly not an issue in this case and we will ensure our staff are re-briefed to avoid any misunderstanding in the future. We are sorry for any upset and anxiety caused to Mr Roberts.
Theresa May's made a speech in the House of Commons in a discussion of the absurd treatment of photographers under current anti-terror laws. Prompted by the excellent Tracey Crouch, May gave the following assurance:
Tracey Crouch (Chatham and Aylesford) (Con): Under the previous Government, a photographer from Medway was arrested in Chatham high street under section 44 stop-and-search powers, and he
and fellow photographers from Medway will welcome today's announcement from the Home Secretary. Will she assure the House that any future revision of anti-terror legislation will strike the right balance between protecting the public and
safeguarding the rights of individuals?
Theresa May: I am happy to give that assurance to my hon. Friend. She may have noticed that in my statement I specifically said that we would look at the issue of photographers and
stop-and-search powers. It is one issue that has been brought home forcibly to me. I have had constituency cases of people who have been stopped under those powers and been concerned about it, and I have received a number of representations from
Members of this House, and indeed of another place, about those problems.
Braehead shopping centre has been shamed into reversing its ban on photography after an internet campaign.
It follows an oppressive incident at Glasgow's Braehead shopping centre when security guards challenged a man who had taken a photo of his young daughter.
Chris White was bullied by security guards and then questioned by police after taking a photo of four-year-old Hazel eating an ice cream on Friday.
White said that, when he was interviewed by police, an officer warned him that anti-terrorism powers meant his camera phone could be confiscated.
In response Chris White set up a Facebook page called Boycott Braehead which, by Monday evening, had been liked by about 20,000 people. In a message posted tonight on the Facebook page, White said he would continue to press for
other shopping centres to change their policies. He wrote:
Hopefully we can now move forward with a common sense approach into a situation that allows families to enjoy precious moments with their children, but at the same time ensure that such public places are areas where we can feel safe and
I have been overwhelmed by the public response on this issue and thank everyone for their support.
Capital Shopping Centres said the new rules would apply immediately to its 11 UK shopping centres. These include the Trafford Centre, near Manchester, Lakeside, in Essex, the Metrocentre, in Gateshead, and the Mall at Cribbs Causeway in Bristol.
It said the policy was also likely to be adopted at three other centres in which it is a partner.
Staff will no longer try to prevent family and friends taking pictures of each other, although security guards might still challenge anyone acting suspiciously.
Capital Shopping Centres, which also owns malls in Cardiff, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich and Nottingham, said: CSC can confirm that we will be changing the photography policy at our 11 directly owned centres and that at the other three
centres, which we own in partnership with other companies, we will be discussing with our partners the policy change and recommending that it be adopted.
Update: Police dispute White's account BUT won't tell us their side of the story
Rob Shorthouse, Director of Communications for Strathclyde Police said:
It is absolutely right and proper that when a complaint about the police is made that it is fully investigated. The public need to know that their complaints are taken seriously and are acted upon promptly and professionally. This is exactly
what has happened in this incident.
Mr White complained to the police about the incident in Braehead. In his statement he set out a set of circumstances that has caused widespread debate, comment and criticism for those who he alleged were involved. Mr White chose to make his
complaint public, to give interviews to the media and to seek debate on social networks.
We are well aware that, as a result of this social media conversation, demonstrations are being planned this weekend at Braehead. We have also seen global media coverage of the incident -- all of which has painted the shopping centre, this
police force and, arguably, our country in a very negative light.
It is because Mr White chose to seek publicity for his account of events and because of the planned demonstration that we feel compelled to take the unusual step of making our findings public.
In reaching our conclusions, officers took statements from a number of independent witnesses and viewed the substantial amount of CCTV that was available in the centre.
On reviewing all of this objective evidence, I have to tell you that we can find no basis to support the complaint which Mr. White has elected to make.
The members of the public who asked for the security staff to become involved have told us that they did so for reasons which had absolutely nothing to do with him taking photographs of his daughter. They had a very specific concern, which I am
not in a position to discuss publicly, that they felt the need to report. It was because of this very specific concern that security staff became involved. They were right to raise their concern and we are glad that they did so.
The security staff were the ones who asked for police involvement. Again, this was not because Mr White said he had been photographing his daughter, but was due to the concerns that they themselves had regarding this particular incident.
When our officers became involved they did not confiscate any items, nor was Mr White questioned under counter terrorist legislation. It is wrong to suggest that the police spoke to Mr White because he claimed he had been photographing his
daughter, or that officers made any reference to counter terror legislation. Mr. White knows, or ought to know, why our officers spoke with him.
Since Mr White chose to publish his version of events on Facebook, we have seen substantial traditional media and social media activity around the story. People have been very quick to offer their opinions on this issue and were very keen to
accept Mr White's story as the only evidence that was available. Clearly this was not the case.
Social media allowed this story to spread quickly around the world. I hope that the same media allows this part of the tale to move just as quickly.
For the avoidance of any doubt, we have fully investigated this incident and we can say that none of the independent and objective evidence presented to us by either the members of the public or the CCTV backs up the claims made by Mr White.
Comment: Miserable Britain
Perhaps indeed there may indeed be question marks over this case.
But I think the police have missed the point, if they think the widespread sympathy with White's campaign is just down to this one incident, then they are clearly wrong.
Public protest has kicked off because of a long history of police and security staff taking it on themselves to ban public photography for trivial reasons taken out of all perspective. Not to mention the general officious and repressive climate
in Britain, where jumped up officials take it on themselves to try and micro manage people's day to day behaviour to match some politically correct dystopia.
If the authorities are worried by public responses such as this, perhaps they should look to the wider issues of the authoritarian political correctness that is making Britain truely miserable.