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Police chief agrees pictures can be taken in public

PUBLISHED: 09:36 10 December 2009 | UPDATED: 17:24 25 August 2010

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

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

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

The e-mail 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 e-mail 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 commonsense 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, the secretary of the South London Photographic Society.

Mr Royce, of Highland Road, Bromley, said: "This is definitely good news. Obviously they need to employ a bit of commonsense. 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 the 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 the Dartford and District Photographic Society, said people in the area are 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.

"All amateur photographers would rightly feel put out by the thought that we can't do what we have always done and take photographs freely, wherever you want, without fear of reprisals."

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

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