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Public Photography Policy (907A/20)

Request

Does West Midlands Police have a stated policy on Public Photography, if so, could the same be made available? If one does not exist, and even otherwise, are the members of the force given guidelines on how to approach an individual who may be involved in public photography including, but not limited to, taking photographs/video of anyone in a public place including members of the police force, vehicles and exteriors of public and private owned buildings, infrastructure or monuments from a public foot path or public right of way.

Response

West Midlands Police does not have a singular policy in relation to public photography.  However there is guidance within the “stop and search” policy that details the legalities of public photography and how it should be dealt with. This wording is detailed below and is a direct extract from the stop and search policy.

 

                 PHOTOGRAPHY/FILM.

 

There has been widespread concern amongst photographers and journalists about the use of stop and search powers in relation to photography. It is important that police officers are aware, in exercising their search powers, that:

 

  • Members of the public and media do not need a permit to film or photograph in public places;

 

  • It is not an offence for a member of the public or journalist to take photographs/film of a public building;

 

  • The police have no power to stop the filming or photographing of incidents or police personnel.

 

                 On the rare occasion that an officer reasonably suspects that photographs/film are being taken as part of hostile terrorist reconnaissance, a search under Section 43(1) of the Terrorism Act 2000 or an arrest should be considered. Whilst terrorists may undertake hostile reconnaissance as part of their planning and this could entail the use of a camera or video equipment, it is important that police officers do not automatically consider photography/filming as suspicious behaviour.

                  Cameras, film and memory cards may be seized as part of a search if the officer reasonably suspects they are evidence that the person is a terrorist, or a vehicle is being used for the purposes of terrorism, or that the items contain evidence of another offence, but officers do not have a legal power to delete images or destroy film. Cameras and other devices should be left in the state they were found and forwarded to appropriately trained staff for forensic examination. The person being searched should never be asked or allowed to turn the device on or off because of the danger of evidence being lost or damaged.

In addition the law states:

–       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

–       Terrorism Act 2000

Photography and Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000

The power to stop and search someone under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 no longer exists.

Police officers continue to have the power to stop and search anyone who they reasonably suspect to be a terrorist under Section 43 of the Terrorism Act.

–       Photography and Section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000

Officers have the power to stop and search a person who they reasonably suspect to be a terrorist. The purpose of the stop and search is to discover whether that person has in their possession anything which may constitute evidence that they are a terrorist.

Officers have the power to view digital images contained in mobile telephones or cameras carried by a person searched under S43 of the Terrorism Act 2000 to discover whether the images constitute evidence that the person is involved in terrorism. Officers also have the power to seize and retain any article found during the search which the officer reasonably suspects may constitute evidence that the person is a terrorist. This includes any mobile telephone or camera containing such evidence.

Officers do not have the power to delete digital images or destroy film at any point during a search. Deletion or destruction may only take place following seizure if there is a lawful power (such as a court order) that permits such deletion or destruction.

–       Section 58A of the Terrorism Act 2000

Section 58A of the Terrorism Act 2000 covers the offence of eliciting, publishing or communicating information about members of the armed forces, intelligence services or police where the information is, by its very nature, designed to provide practical assistance to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

Any officer making an arrest for an offence under Section 58A must be able to demonstrate a reasonable suspicion that the information was, by its very nature, designed to provide practical assistance to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

It would ordinarily be unlawful to use section 58A to arrest people photographing police officers in the course of normal policing activities, including protests because there would not normally be grounds for suspecting that the photographs were being taken to provide assistance to a terrorist. An arrest would only be lawful if an arresting officer had a reasonable suspicion that the photographs were being taken in order to provide practical assistance to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

There is nothing preventing officers asking questions of an individual who appears to be taking photographs of someone who is or has been a member of Her Majesty’s Forces (HMF), Intelligence Services or a constable so long as this is being done for a lawful purpose and is not being done in a way that prevents, dissuades or inhibits the individual from doing something which is not unlawful.

 

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