Photography is not a crime

This content is 15 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

In the current climate of political correctness and anti-terrorism legislation, there have been a few situations recently where photographers have found themselves falling foul of the law – for example the US photographer who was arrested whilst taking photos for an Amtrak competition at a railway station (of all places!) – and the UK Home Secretary caused controversy last summer when she suggested that legal restrictions may be placed upon photographers.

A petition was lodged at the Prime Minister’s web spinning site and this week a response was published.

There are no legal restrictions on photography in public places. However, the law applies to photographers as it does to anybody else in a public place. So there may be situations in which the taking of photographs may cause or lead to public order situations, inflame an already tense situation, or raise security considerations. Additionally, the police may require a person to move on in order to prevent a breach of the peace, to avoid a public order situation, or for the person’s own safety or welfare, or for the safety and welfare of others.

Each situation will be different and it would be an operational matter for the police officer concerned as to what action if any should be taken in respect of those taking photographs. Anybody with a concern about a specific incident should raise the matter with the Chief Constable of the relevant force.”

[ response to photography law e-petition, 12 January 2008]

So, there you have it – Photography Is Not A Crime – although an overzealous law enforcement agent may think it is until you take it up with his or her Chief Constable…

2 thoughts on “Photography is not a crime

  1. Wow- we are seeing photographers being arrested at railway stations under anti-terrorism laws- will we see journalists being arrested under the guise of public order offenses?

    A person is guilty of a public order offence if, with intent to cause a person harassment, alarm or distress, they—

    (a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or

    (b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,

    thereby causing that or another person harassment, alarm or distress.

    I am not sure how photography falls under any of those categories!

    As for anti-terrorism, well surely the government should place restrictions on google earth, google search, virtual earth, etc!

    How much do we have to give up in terms of having a society that professes to be “democratic” and “free”?

  2. As a student street photography was my passion. Never would a day go by when i wouldn’t have my camera at my side shooting portraits and urban scenes. Now im afraid my camera often stays at home. When ever i try and shoot street photography i always got stopped by security, police or often members of public asking me what im doing in an accusing way. It wont be long untill it is banned. The days of being free are no longer :(. Looks like i will stick to studio and Portrait photography

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