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Photography and Counter Terrorism Legislation

by Matt Falcus

On 18 August, the UK Home Office released a circular to clarify counter-terrorism legislation in relation to photography in a public place. This was a result of sections of the Counter Terrorism Act being used to stop innocent photographers taking photos and pursuing their hobby in public places.

Whilst this covers the whole spectrum of photography, no matter what your subject is, it is naturally of importance and relevance to aircraft enthusiasts who take photographs near airports as part of their hobby.

The circular can be read at this link. It is advisable to familiarise yourself with the rules and laws contained within, and even keep a copy handy in your camera bag. For a brief summary, here are some important points:

  • Section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000 a police officer may stop and search a person they reasonably suspect to be a terrorist, to discover whether that person has in their possession anything which may constitute evidence that they are a terrorist. This power can be exercised at any time and in any location.
  • Digital images can be viewed as part of a search under section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000 to discover whether the person has in their possession anything which may constitute evidence that they are a terrorist.
  • When conducting a search under section 43, cameras, film and memory cards can be seized if the officer reasonably suspects that these may constitute evidence that the person is a terrorist.
  • Officers do not have the power to delete images or destroy film.
  • Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 enable uniformed police officers to stop and search anyone within an authorised area for the purposes of searching for articles of a kind which could be used in connection with terrorism.
  • Section 44 does not prohibit the taking of photographs, film or digital images in an authorised area and members of the public and the press should not be prevented from doing so.

The full article: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/about-us/publications/home-office-circulars/circulars-2009/012-2009/

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