PolicemanLord Carlile, who heads the terror law watchdog body, has spoken out on police use of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act (Stop and Search) claiming it is unnecessarily and stresses that no stops have ever led to a conviction.

Section 44 gives police officers the power to stop someone without reasonable grounds for suspicion that they are engaged in a terrorist activity. Many photographers in the UK, both professional and amateur alike have complained about being stopped under this anti-terrorism legislation.

Lord Carlile continues in the report to specifically addresses photographers’ concerns over the introduction of a law (Section 58A) that makes it a potential offence to photograph a police officer. On page 39 of the report he states:

A number of professional and amateur photographers have approached me to complain that this provision is being used to threaten them with prosecution if they take photographs of police officers on duty.

The report comes just days after police stopped the editor of a photography website (PhotographyBLOG), using Section 44 powers, in central London. Mark Goldstein, who edits PhotographyBLOG, said:

It seemed I was booked under ‘Section 44/J’ of the Terrorism Act simply because I didn’t fit into any of the other available categories. Despite the officer taking about 30 seconds to ascertain that I wasn’t a threat to national security, I was still issued with Form 5090 (X).

Rupert Grey, a leading photography rights lawyer from Swan Turton solicitors, agreed that Section 44 of the Terrorism Act puts police officers in a ‘very privileged position’. He told Amateur Photographer:

If they abuse that privilege, by using the power in plainly inappropriate circumstances, relations between the police and the ordinary citizen will be damaged. Worse, the trust between the press and the police will break down, with serious consequences for objective and accurate reporting on what happens on our streets. Lord Carlile’s warning must not be ignored.

More on this from the Amateur Photographer site:
Stop and search: Police under fire over ‘unnecessary’ terror stops
Carlile warning ‘must not be ignored’, says photo rights lawyer