Back in January this year, following a test case, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Section 44 stop-and-search anti-terrorism powers were illegal. As reported on this blog and many others, there was a huge amount of criticism of the powers, especially by photographers who suddenly found themselves being treated as terrorists for simply having a large camera and being conspicuous.
The European Court of Human Rights had ruled that police powers to stop and search had ‘not been curbed by adequate legal safeguards so as to offer the individual adequate protection against arbitrary interference’. Or in other words, it allowed the police to pick on whoever they fancied without having to explain their reasons.
Following the ruling by the ECHR, the UK Government disagreed and asked for an appeal to the Grand Chamber of the Court but as of yesterday this has now been refused, making the January judgement final. So can photographers in the UK finally expect to be treated with respect? Unfortunately maybe not!
Amateur Photographer reports that a Home Office spokesman told them: ‘The Government has already committed to reviewing counter-terrorism legislation which will include the operation of the Section 44 stop-and-search provisions.’ In theory this means that police may continue to conduct Section 44 stops for the foreseeable future. Despite the ruling.
That said, the “I’m a photographer not a terrorist” team are holding a flashmob outside New Scotland Yard this coming Saturday. So if you’re in London and fancy joining them to celebrate this victory (and perhaps see if section 44 harassment is indeed a thing of the past) then check out the details here.