The NUJ has accused the police of abusing its stop and search powers after a photographer was detained for 45 minutes whilst she was covering a wedding in London Docklands.
Jess Hurd was taking photos of a traveller wedding last Wednesday – on UN Human Rights Day – for a long term documentary project on the persecution of travellers when she had her camera taken from her and was detained under section 44 of the Terrorism Act.
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The section covers those thought to be ‘carrying out hostile reconnaissance for a terrorist assault”. Hurd was spotted by police outside the reception venue at Ramada Docklands last Wednesday taking photos and recording video. Her photos appeared in Saturday’s Guardian.
Hurd may have been stopped because she was filming close to London City Airport.
She is reported to have had her camera removed from her while police viewed the footage she had taken. She said she was detained for 45 minutes and told not to use any footage that showed the police cars or officers.
A spokesman for the Metropolitan police said: “Any officer that suspects an offence has been committed has the right to detain you. Because you are a press photographer does not preclude you from being stopped under section 44 of the Terrorism Act. If the officer thought the photographer acted suspiciously and especially if it was in a sensitive place, he had a right to detain and question the photographer.”
NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear said: “This is yet another absurd misuse of the s44 powers which are designed to allow the police to detain those actively involved in carrying out a terrorist activity not to stop press photographers carrying out their legitimate business.
“Despite the government’s warm words about the right to photograph in public and new Home Office guidelines it appears the routine abuse of these powers goes on.
“How ironic that those documenting persecution and intimidation on UN Human Rights Day should be subject to such abuse and intimidation”.