Police face prosecution for obstructing photographers

Police were warned today about wrongful use of anti-terror laws to stop photographers taking pictures of officers.

Lord Carlile QC, who reviews anti-terror legislation, said officers who use force or threats against photographers to make them delete images could face prosecution themselves.

Section 58A of the Counter-Terrorism Act, which came into force in February, bans photographers from taking pictures of the police if the photographs could be useful to terrorists.

Lord Carlile said this was a “high bar” and should not be used to interfere with day-to-day photography of officers which is “as legitimate as before”.

One photographer wrote to him to complain about being forced to delete an image from his camera of an officer on traffic duty.

In his annual review of anti-terror laws, Lord Carlile said: “It should be emphasised that photography of the police by the media or amateurs remains as legitimate as before, unless the photograph is likely to be of use to a terrorist. This is a high bar.

“It is inexcusable for police officers ever to use this provision to interfere with the rights of individuals to take photographs.

“The police must adjust to the undoubted fact that the scrutiny of them by members of the public is at least proportional to any increase in police powers – given the ubiquity of photograph and video-enabled mobile phones.

“Police officers who use force or threaten force in this context run the real risk of being prosecuted themselves for one or more of several possible criminal and disciplinary offences.”

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