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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Police are overstepping the mark

Today's Independent reports the views of Liberal Democrat peer, Lord Carlile who, in his independent non-party political role as the Government's independent reviewer of anti-terrorism laws has warned Police against misusing powers granted under anti-terror legislation.

The paper say that his remarks come 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.

The paper says that most of those stopped are told that they are being questioned under Section 44, which is a controversial power that allows senior officers to designate entire areas of their police force regions as stop-and-search zones. The areas are chosen based on their likelihood of being a terrorism target.

They say that more than 100 of these zones 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:

In the first quarter of this financial year 96 per cent of all Section 44 searches were carried out by the Metropolitan Police and the British Transport Police. Every area of the UK which has a Section 44 in place is known to the Home Office. 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.

Craig Mackey, who speaks for the Association of Chief Police Officers on stop-and-search legislation puts it into context. He says that part of the problem is that some officers are not aware how best to use the "complex" legislation. He said: "It goes back to the issue of briefing and training of staff and making sure they are clear around the legislation we are asking them to use. There is no power under Section 44 to stop people taking photographs and we are very clear about getting that message out to forces.

"In the past there has been a build-up around photographers and policing. That said, it is difficult to imagine a scenario where someone taking pictures of Christmas lights would be something we should be dealing with."


This is a major issue with Swansea Camera Club. Council officials have been stopping people taking pictures at public events and one amateur photographer has said that the police stopped him taking pictures of a water skiing event - because children 'might' be getting changed. This is a local issue Pter - as well as a national one!
Every Train Station - Really Peter, how wide does this exclusion zone go on for?

I'm living within about 300 yrds of a railway station!!!!
That suggestion was not mine. It was taken directly from the newspaper report. I think that is clear in the post.
It is railways stations nuclear power stations, anywhere like Courts, prisons, meetings and of course with out Police from now on any meeting or march in which the police might need to break bones.
I've been "bothered" while taking photos of a viaduct. At which point I semi-politely informed said ossifer of the actual (lack of) law
Worth keeping this story for reference for anyone asking what the Lib Dems are for.
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