Met Reissues Advice To Police

Amatuer Photographer points out that the Met has recently revised its advice to police officers on photography in public places. The new document is rather more positive, starting from the position:

We encourage officers and the public to be vigilant against terrorism but recognise the importance not only of protecting the public from terrorism but also promoting the freedom of the public and the media to take and publish photographs.

and under that the first section is:

Freedom to photograph/film

Members of the public and the media do not need a permit to film or photograph in public places and police have no power to stop them filming or photographing incidents or police personnel.

The advice, which supposedly has “been made clear to officers and PCSOs through briefings and internal communications” generally clarifies the law – Section 43, 44 and 58A of the Terrorism Act 2000 and makes it clear that officers do not have the power to delete digital images or destroy film. In particular, “where it is clear that the person being searched is a journalist, officers should exercise caution before viewing images as images acquired or created for the purposes of journalism may constitute journalistic material and should not be viewed without a Court Order.”

The guidance also gives clear advice on who is a “genuine journalist” in the statement:

“Genuine members of the media carry identification, for instance the UK Press Card, which they will present on request.”

This seems a considerable advance from last May, when at the NUJ photographers conference Commander Broadhurst apparently seriously asked the question “can anybody apply for an NUJ card who has a camera?”

I hope that this advice to officers will help to reduce the friction there has certainly been between police and the press (and public) over photography. It might not be a bad idea to print off a few copies to hand out to police that we meet!

May Day may well prove a good test of whether good intentions (and perhaps a desire to avoid the prosecution of police for unlawful actions) at the higher levels of the force have permeated down into good sense on the ground.

There has been some attempt again this year in the Tory press to spread rumours of insurrection and mayhem about the street theatre planned for next Saturday – a May Day Carnival, again with the ‘Four Horses of the Apocalypse‘ , but this time their four marches converging on Parliament Square dragging the corpses of Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Nick Griffin to a People’s Assembly.

Last April 1 at Bank we saw what happened when the officer in charge inspired a spirit of panic through radio and TV appearances (and doubtless in police briefings)  and encouraged psyched up police hooligans to attack both press and demonstrators, using their agent provocateurs in plain clothes to incite riot.  It isn’t clear what the police hoped to gain from these tactics, clearly exposed in the press and public’s photographs and videos, but it is fairly obvious that they backfired in this instance. Perhaps it was the death of Ian Tomlinson – so clearly an innocent bystander – that really turned the tide against them.

I hope the police have learnt the lesson from April 1st, and that on May Day their response will be proportionate and calm. Let the protesters protest and the press report on that and not on another day of police atrocities.  I hope.

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