One of Britain’s most senior police officers has told forces across the country they have no right to stop people taking pictures in public.
Chief Constable Andy Trotter said the practice was unacceptable and undermined public confidence in the service.
His remarks follow a series of cases in which officers have ordered both amateur and professional photographers to delete images, often giving terrorism laws as their reason for doing so.
Trotter, chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers’ media advisory group, told forces in a letter:
“There have been a number of recent instances highlighted in the press where officers have detained photographers and deleted images from their cameras.
“I seek your support in reminding your officers and staff that they should not prevent anyone from taking photographs in public.
“This applies equally to members of the media and public seeking to record images, who do not need a permit to photograph or film in public places.”
ACPO guidance states: “There are no powers prohibiting the taking of photographs, film or digital images in a public place.
“Therefore members of the public and press should not be prevented from doing so.
“We need to cooperate with the media and amateur photographers. They play a vital role as their images help us identify criminals.
“We must acknowledge that citizen journalism is a feature of modern life and police officers are now photographed and filmed more than ever.
“Unnecessarily restricting photography, whether for the casual tourist or professional is unacceptable and it undermines public confidence in the police service.
“Once an image has been recorded, the police have no power to delete or confiscate it without a court order.”
Trotter’s reminder of the law to forces across the country comes two months after photographer Carmen Valino was threatened with arrest and handcuffing by a police sergeant as she took pictures for Hackney Gazette at a murder scene in east London.
Earlier in July, British Transport Police admitted that a community support officer acted beyond his powers by claiming a photo-journalist was acting unlawfully by taking pictures of an arrest.