Section 44 Victory

 © 2010, Peter Marshall

Last Sunday around 50 of London’s finest photojournalists and a few other friends of freedom gathered at Scotland Yard to celebrate the European Court of Human Rights ruling that meant ‘Section 44‘ which police had been widely using to harass photographers (as well as demonstrators) was illegal. Yesterday we heard that Home Secretary Teresa May had finally bowed to the inevitable and accepted their decision. Section 44 truly was dead.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Innocent man, David Mery, at New Scotland Yard

It may well have been the media storm over the police arrest of a young freelance covering a military parade in Romford the previous week that had been the last nail in the coffin for this ill-conceived legislation, although it was probably about the only offence which Jules Mattson wasn’t accused of during the farcical eight or nine minutes he recorded police digging themselves a deeper hole.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Jules photographing and being photographed

Jules was held up on his way to Sunday’s  ‘flash-mob’ not by police but by witnessing a traffic accident, but when he did arrive those of us still there certainly gave him a hero’s welcome before posing so he too could take a picture of the demonstration.

Jules got in the news again on Tuesday, having been asked to photograph an event where his former army cadet group was among those being inspected by Prince Charles.  Police were consulted as he came into the area and were happy with him there, but when he stopped to take pictures of the Prince saluting his group of cadets, a grey suited member of Charles’s bodyguard ran towards him and held him for a few seconds before apparently being satisfied that he was not intent on assassination.

It looked like the end of the incident, but shortly after a couple of plain clothes police in flowery frocks (allegedly female) from the police covert operations group (still usually referred to as SO10, though officially now  SCD10, and and one of the 10 Specialist Crime Directorates  – or possibly 11, though if so SCD3 is a closely guarded official secret) came over and grabbed him.  He was questioned, and stopped and searched before being held for around 30 minutes; he could have left earlier, but sensibly demanded a stop and search form which the officer concerned deliberately went through very, very, slowly indeed.

Of course the loss of Section 44 does not mean an end to police harassment of photographers, and nor will the issuing of yet more statements and circulars telling them to lay off the press. But I think they are coming under increased pressure to actually do something about it by the increasing media coverage, as well as more settlements being made in favour of photographers.

With everyone there having at least one camera and spending a lot of time using it, getting pictures that were more than a simple record of the event was hard. Of course there are obvious things you have to take, and I did.  But there were perhaps one or two of those on My London Diary that stood out among the rest.

2 Responses to “Section 44 Victory”

  1. ChrisL says:

    I think we need to see if the operational end of the force will change behaviour as a result, I have my doubts.
    Not a very close secret :-
    Name: Commander Martin Hewitt
    Position: He has direct responsibility for three operational command units SCD3, SCD7 and SCD8
    SCD3 Specialist Crime Prevention and Partnership lead on a number of prevention projects aimed at reducing violence. The Command also represents Specialist Crime Directorate on a number of multi-agency pan-London partnership groups.

  2. Sorry, just a facetious reference – you can read about them all at http://www.met.police.uk/scd/index.htm Yes, agree entirely with what you say about the operational end – which is why I stress the importance of media coverage

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