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Police urged to ease bar on photographs

PUBLISHED: 16:02 09 December 2009 | UPDATED: 11:14 12 August 2010

AMATEUR photographers have welcomed news that police have received a reminder not to use anti-terror laws to prevent people taking pictures. Last Friday, constables at England s and Wales s 43 police forces received an email from the Association of Chief

AMATEUR photographers have welcomed news that police have received a reminder not to use anti-terror laws to prevent people taking pictures.

Last Friday, constables at England's and Wales's 43 police forces received an email from the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo).

The email was sent following reports of officers demanding personal details from amateur photographers under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

Chief Constable Andy Trotter, chairman of Acpo's media advisory group, sent the email warning policed that the power should not be used unnecessarily.

He said: "Officers and community support officers are reminded that we should not be stopping and searching people for taking photos.

"Unnecessarily restricting photography, whether from the casual tourist or professional, is unacceptable."

He told reporters: "Everyone - photographers, members of the media and the general public - has a right to take photographs and film in public places. It's as simple and as clear as that."

He added: "I want to see a return to common-sense policing where officers feel able to talk to the public and have a conversation with them, without feeling the need to record every incident or draw on powers intended to be used exceptionally, sparingly and wisely."

The news went down well with Jeff Royce, secretary of South London Photographic Society.

Mr Royce, of Highland Road, Bromley, said: "This is definitely good news. Obviously, they need to employ a bit of common sense. The police just got carried away with these laws, but now it's time to rein it in a bit.

"If those laws are not used sensibly, they can seriously jeopardise people's human rights."

Section 44 allows police to stop and search anyone, without need for suspicion, in designated areas - whose locations are kept secret from the public.

Guidance issued by the National Policing Improvement Agency, says "these powers are exceptional and should only be used in specific circumstances".

Mike Morfitt, president of Dartford Photographic Society, said people in the area were concerned about the use of Section 44.

The 71-year-old said: "At the club, people are amazed that, with all the surveillance there is around us, they still feel the need to restrict photographers. It's ludicrous."

Mr Morfitt, of Langafel Road, Longfield, added: "It was heartening to see that Mr Trotter sent a reminder out to forces - it's a bit of common sense at last.

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