Protest at Court

Signs at the front of the court prohibit photography

I always feel a little uneasy at photographing around courts. In the UK you are not allowed to photograph inside courtrooms during trials, and photography is not generally permitted on the court property. The Supreme Court, perhaps because it has been set up more recently in the former Middlesex Guildhall is an exception, though not one I’ve yet taken advantage of, allowing photography generally throughout the building except in courtrooms that are sitting on the day of your visit.

At Southwark Crown Court, things are even more restricted, as not only is it illegal to photograph on the court precinct, but the area around the court is one of the increasing areas of privately owned space in London, ‘More London‘, whose security guards will prevent you from photographing on the actual roadway outside the court or on the opposite pavement. You are restricted to the actual pavement in front of the court, though I did take a few pictures before getting told I was not allowed to by ‘More London’ staff.

‘More London’ security came and told me I could not photograph here after I took this picture

Generally, ‘More London’ prohibit or control photography over most of the area between Tooley St, the River Thames and Tower Bridge, including outside City Hall, though they generally have the common sense not to try and enforce this for protests outside City Hall itself – and most photographers would tell them to get lost if they tried. There is generally a very clear public interest involved and police would almost certainly avoid taking any action.

The pavement is reasonably wide, but much of it was taken up by the Independent Workers (IWGB) cleaners union protesting for a living wage and an end to bullying and intimidation for the workers, employed by Mitie, who clean the court; protesters are subject to similar prohibitions to photographers and the three photographers present were sharing the space with the protesters. I was pleased to have the 16mm fisheye in my camera bag, its wide angle of view making it possible to photograph in very limited spaces.

This is one of several images that were only possible using it – I would have had to stand on the court premises without it – and that was not allowed (though I might have just briefly got away with it.)

It also let me take this picture without encroaching on ‘More London’s roadway – well I might have had just one foot on it. But useful though it is, it does give some problems, even after making use of the Fisheye-Hemi plugin or other software to straighten the verticals. The curvature of the horizontals can still annoy; it is possible to convert to rectilinear perspective (and Lightroom will do so by default), but you can only do this by sacrificing much of the very wide angle of view that was the reason to use the fisheye in the first place.

Protests, like photography, are prohibited in the court’s precincts, but not all the protesters respected this, with one marching up the steps clutching an IWGB poster ‘Real Living Wage Now!!!’. But unfortunately he soon dropped it…

Undaunted, later he was protesting for a living wage for the cleaners on the pavement as a group of lawyers walked by.

More on the protest and more pictures at IWGB Cleaners protest for Living Wage.


My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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