Section 76 of the the Counter Terrorism Act became law today in the UK.

The new law was ushered in with a protest at the home of the Metropolitan Police, New Scotland Yard by around 150 photographers who staged a mass photo-shoot

What’s the fuss about?

Well the new section states

(1) A person commits an offence who—
(a) elicits or attempts to elicit information about an individual who is or has been—
(i) a member of Her Majesty’s forces,
(ii) a member of any of the intelligence services, or
(iii) a constable,
which is of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism, or
(b) publishes or communicates any such information.

This is yet another vague amendment to Anti Terror Laws that could pose a threat to photographers, both amateur and professional who are innocently going about their business, but who could yet find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

Over the past few years, more and more complaints of harrassment of photographers by police have been reported. This new law, in my opinion, will lead to an increase in reported incidents, especially as police officers get to grips with the implications, and photographers ignorant of the legislation get caught out.

Will I be averting my lens should I see a constable approach? For sure I will, I don’t think I want to go to jail or have my equipment confiscated, but perhaps that’s a cowardly position to take. Should I be protest against these changes that the Metropolitan police spokesperson claims are ‘unworkable’, yes and my letter is being drafted right after I post this.

What do I expect to happen? Absolutely nothing, because we have turned into a nation that does not respect protest, we don’t respect the right of the individual to free expression, we feel scared of our law enforcement services, and we don’t trust them, or our government to respect and uphold our freedoms.

The standard responses seem to center around (you fill in the blanks)

  1. If you’re doing nothing wrong……
  2. These laws won’t affect you if……
  3. These laws are meant to protect……
  4. The security of our citizens is…….

It’s a bloody farce! Stop and search amendments meant to be used to find more terrorists are being used on ordinary citizens at an alarming rate (Times article). CCTV touted as necessary in stopping street crime, is used to hand out parking tickets, where does it end?

A few days ago, my brother told me of a shooting that happened somewhere in the USA, where police officers apprehended and eventually shot at point blank range, an un-armed, subdued suspect. The killing was films by ordinary citizens on camera phones. Although I have not seen the footage, the fact that the members of the public in the vicinity were unafraid to capture the footage on their phones, from the point the suspect was apprehended is something we may see disappear in the UK once police officers feel they have enough backing to ‘dissuade’ the public from filming their actions.

What? What’s that, the police don’t kill innocents?

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  1. Dean Birinyi /

    In the US we still have the right to shoot anywhere, but the private security that everyone hires seems to think taking photographs is against the law and will come rushing out to try to scare photographers into going away.

    It’s important that photographers know and understand the law regarding their activities and adhere to them religiously so when someone calls the police you know the worst that will happen is that you have to leave – with or without the shot.

    Fortunately the majority of police officers here are not as “Gung-Ho” as the security guards.

  2. Dave /

    Mark Thomas has pointed to these issues on numerous occasions and has come into his own fair share of heated debates with policemen taking the law out on ordinary citizens.

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