The British Journal of Photography is reporting that come February 16th a new law comes into effect in the UK which could worsen the already bad relationship between photographers and the security services.
The law, an amendment to the Counter-Terrorism Act, changes the rules, under section 76 of the 2008 Act and section 58A of the 2000 Act, to target anyone who ‘elicits or attempts to elicit information about [members of armed forces] … which is of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism’. Anyone found guilty of this offence could be liable to imprisonment for up to 10 years, and to a fine.
The situation in the UK between photographers and Police has been tense for some time and was not helped by the launch of an advertising campaign by the Metropolitan Police in early 2008. Following this there have been numerous reports of both professional and amateur photographers being hassled by Police for innocently going about their jobs or hobby.
More worryingly, once this law comes into effect, it would also dissuade public documentation of the Police. For example, if it had happened in the UK those citizens who filmed San Francisco BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle killing Oscar Grant could also be thrown in prison.
Despite attempts to clarify the law on photography, and the Government’s recent weak response, things seem to be deteriorating. Whilst I admit the wording of the law is vague (which is a problem in itself) I urge you to write to your local MP to object about this as it is bound to increase the hassle and number of stop and search requests we photographers are getting in the UK.