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10-19-2009, 01:24 PM   #1
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Stopped, ID'd and verbally cautioned under the Terrorism Act today!

Hey guys,

Well I went out for some urban and street photography today and ran into some trouble. I posted this on another forum, so I will copy and paste it in here.

I went to my local shopping centre knowing that might be problematic and got two shots of an escalator. Within minutes, security guards were over (this is as close as I can remember the chain of conversation):

"Can I ask what you're taking photos of please."

"The escalator".

"Photography is not allowed here".

"Oh? Says who?"

"The management - this is private property."

"So what about tourists, people with point and shoot cameras and people with camera phones - do you stop them too?

"Yes, we stop everyone photographing here."

"So what's the reason behind that?"

"You could be photographing someone's children, infact it was a mother that reported you".

"So you're suggesting I'm a paedophile?!" - loudly at him.

"No no no sir, I'm only suggesting that members of the public could see it that way."

Now I know my rights, if it's deemed to be private property, he can stop me taking photographs, but I know they have absolutely no power - including the police - to stop me taking pictures in a public place provided it's not a sensitive subject; so I took the trumped up bastard on.

"Can I take photos from outside the building?"

"No, that's not permitted."

"Sorry mate, it's a public place, you can't stop me taking pictures in a public place - I'll respect your request not to photograph inside here, but I'll be taking as many as I like outside"

Then he radios in "he says he knows his rights...". So I start to take a couple of shots from the public road of the front of the building. At that point he and his security mate run out shouting "we don't want you taking pictures outside either".

"You can't stop me, phone the police, get them down here and i'll prove it"

"Well if that's how you want to play it".

Five minutes later, old bill show up and interview me. Fair play to him, he was as nice as pie and I answered all his questions. I told him I was taking photos for personal use and that it was a hobby. Then he sucked through his teeth;

"You can't really take photos here though".

"All due respect, but this is a public place - you can't stop or arrest me for anything - I know my rights"


Then came the trump card:

"Well, under <whatever section> of the Terrorist Act I must caution you that this building could be deemed a sensitive subject and as such I'm going to have to ask you not to. I'm also gonna need to see some photo ID and take some details".

Gobsmacked, I complied - address, occupation, employer, had to review most of my memory card, driving licence. I've been through this before when photographing an oil refinery.

I then said "If i was a terrorist, do you honestly think I'd come down here in broad daylight and snap photos like this? Don't you think I'd be better off using google maps? or maybe use a long lens from far away?".

They said "yeah we know, we hear that a lot, we understand that but we have to follow up every reported case".

I followed up with "look - you know it and I know it, I can take photos here all day long - can you advise what law i've broken exactly?".

He sighed and said "right - you've not broken any law, but I would appreciate it if you didn't just now".

I said "As I say, I know my rights, but for the interest of a peaceful life, I will respect your request". Off I went.

So there you have it, two photos of an escalator and two photos of the exterior of a shopping centre and I get stopped, searched and cautioned under the terrorism act.

Un-fu**ing-believable.

10-19-2009, 01:45 PM   #2
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I hear ya have experienced some of the same although not as intense - be thankful you live in a country where it is ask first and shoot (and not from a camera) later
10-19-2009, 01:46 PM   #3
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You are such the terrorist suspect too.
Who knows? Any terrorist group could employ a regular Joe Blow to go and take pictures of a shopping centre for them...

May as well just ban photography.
What'll be of all the millions of cameras being produced each day?
10-19-2009, 01:47 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by daacon Quote
I hear ya have experienced some of the same although not as intense - be thankful you live in a country where it is ask first and shoot (and not from a camera) later
There is a place like that Dave?

10-19-2009, 01:54 PM   #5
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Wasn't there actually a change of law or something in the UK recently that would seriously offend photographers' rights? Not allowed to take photos of police officers etc?

One might see that as one step further to 1984 or something...
10-19-2009, 01:59 PM   #7
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This is why I'm getting a white camera. Terrorists don't use white cameras, right?
10-19-2009, 01:59 PM   #8
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i was just browsing and found this article:
Shoot First, Ask Later - washingtonpost.com
QuoteOriginally posted by Ash Quote
There is a place like that Dave?


10-19-2009, 02:01 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Eruditass Quote
This is why I'm getting a white camera. Terrorists don't use white cameras, right?
Or pink ones! Or ones with some of that bling jewellery on them!
10-19-2009, 02:02 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by sharathk Quote
i was just browsing and found this article:
Shoot First, Ask Later - washingtonpost.com
I hope that's the exception rather than the rule...
10-19-2009, 02:02 PM   #11
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Seems like you took a needlessly confrontational stance there, like you were looking for a fight. Why not just say, "i understand I cannot take picture on private property. I will leave" Then just go take picture outside without announcing that its your right. There are better ways to handle this. Let them know that you understand the law and that you are obeying it. But don't be an ass and say things like, "Oh, who says?" and "you can't stop me taking pictures in a public place". There just isn't any need for such confrontational statements.
10-19-2009, 02:05 PM   #12
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I was obeying the law, I stopped taking photos inside and he followed me outside.

Confrontational or not, he has no right to stop me taking photos from a public road in a public place.
10-19-2009, 02:10 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by enoeske Quote
Seems like you took a needlessly confrontational stance there, like you were looking for a fight. Why not just say, "i understand I cannot take picture on private property. I will leave" Then just go take picture outside without announcing that its your right. There are better ways to handle this. Let them know that you understand the law and that you are obeying it. But don't be an ass and say things like, "Oh, who says?" and "you can't stop me taking pictures in a public place". There just isn't any need for such confrontational statements.
I have to agree, from reading the OP's initial comments before the "transcript" it certainly appears to me he walked in looking for a piss and the security guards simply gave him the excuse to start one.
10-19-2009, 02:31 PM   #14
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If I understand correctly: you confronted the security guards when you knew that you had no rights, you raise hullabaloo with both private security and a police officer, and then you walk away--when you do have rights--in the interest of a peaceful life. What exactly were you trying to prove? If you wanted to assert your rights, the time to do that was when you did have rights. If you wanted a peaceful life for yourself and those around you, you should have walked away when they asked you to stop taking pictures.

Perhaps the officer had no right to stop you from taking photos on public property, but, from how you tell the story, he didn't stop you. He asked you to stop. He had the right, perhaps even the duty, to ask you to stop. If you hadn't, and he had arrested you, this would be a different story.

One rule of thumb to keep in mind: if you don't want to be harassed by authority figures, don't ask them if they're accusing you of paedophilia.
10-19-2009, 02:45 PM   #15
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Well I showed some resistance as to why they prevented photography in what was a public place (a wide open shopping centre) which was strictly speaking private property.

When it comes down to it, strictly speaking, yes I was aware that it could be a problem. However, I have taken photographs on private property on countless occasions - pubs, clubs, gigs, airports, restaurants could all be considered to be private property and I am fully aware of the law regarding what it would entail to take photographs there. I have never had a problem taking photos in these places considered to be private property. This shopping centre was the same; it was private property but of all places I've taken photographs I very much doubted it would be a problem.

When I was confronted by said security officer, his attitude was snotty and patronising, and for him to suggest that I could be photographing people's children really got my back up. So after questions and quantification on why I wasn't allowed to take photos (but clearly other people were with their camera phones), I was going to exercise my right to photograph the exterior from a public road.

I don't expect you to know the law here in the UK, but we have a catch-all law called the Terrorism Act. When he knew he had run out of power to move me on, he simply pulled it out the bag and used it against me. The terrorism act prevents photography in a public place where it is deemed of a "sensitive" subject - this includes power stations, oil refineries, military installations, strategic targets (bridges etc.). This was the exterior of a shopping centre, hardly sensitive.

If I had exercised my rights any further, it would have involved an arrest which means I would need to make a complaint for an unlawful arrest or allow it to go to court only for a judge to laugh his ass off and throw it out of court.

I decided to retain my dignity and walk away.
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