Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Police still harassing photographers

I have just read this post by Jules Mattsson, a student who is a freelance photographer in his spare time. In it he describes how he was detained and questioned by police officers when he was trying to take photographs of an Armed Forces Day parade in Romford on Saturday.

There is a YouTube here which contains some of the pictures taken and an audio recording of much of the incident:

The officers appear to try a number of different tacks to argue that he should not be taking photographs. They begin by insisting that he needs parental permission to take photographs of minors. Jules repeatedy rebuts this claim by explaining that it is a public place and no such restrictions in law apply. They then insist that he needs to give them his details although when repeatedly pressed as to which law he is required to do this under, at first there is no response and eventually an officer says they do not need a law. Finally the tack shifts to claims of "breach of the peace" which again is vigorously denied by Jules.

Particularly disturbing are the claims from Jules which can be heard on the recording that he was taken away from the parade and then thrown down some stairs (he claims he is still suffering from back pain caused by this) at virtually the same time that an officer is claiming he is being taken away "for his own safety". It should be pointed out though that on the recording an officer denies that this is what has happened.

What is striking throughout is the police officers' apparent lack of understanding of the law and how they appear to be thrashing around for a reason to stop him. They also appear to get more and more irritated and annoyed as it becomes apparent that Jules is very well versed in the law and what he can and cannot legally do.

I have covered various other cases like this on this blog previously (e.g. here and here). In more recent times, new guidelines have been issued which were supposed to make sure that innocent photographers were not harassed and prevented from taking pictures on spurious grounds. Clearly that guidance is not getting all the way through to the front line if this case is anything to go by.

This story has now been picked up by the national media so hopefully it will get much wider coverage.

UPDATE: Young Mr Brown on the Libertarian Party Members' Blog has transcribed the exchanges in the audio track of the encounter here.


Kalvis Jansons said...

A great post on an important issue!

JuliaM said...

Despite claims by the police that they have issued guidance (and some forces may indeed have done so), this will continue until there are serious consequences for those carrying it out, or those in charge of them.

And I don't mean a fine or even large compensation payouts. I mean sackings.