The BJP reports that their attempt to find out where in the UK s.44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 applies has been refused by the Home Office for reasons of national security.
"After careful consideration we have decided that this information is exempt from disclosure by virtue of Section 24(1) and Section 31(1)(a-c) of the Freedom of Information Act.
‘Section 24(1) provides that information is exempt if required for the purposes of safeguarding National Security. Section 31(1)(a-c) provides that information is exempt if its disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the prevention or detection of crime, the apprehension or prosecution of offenders, or the administration of justice."
Photolegal.com is a new UK-based site that aims to produce fortnightly podcasts. The format is a couple of photographers talking with an IP lawyer and covering topical legal matters affecting photographers ranging from copyright to access rights. The first podcast is available now, the next is due around May 10th and will cover G20, Police stop and search, photography in public places and related issues.
The Guardian (print edition) reports that last year more than 1 million stop and searches under various legislation were performed by police in the UK. The number of s.44 stops under the Terrorism Act 2000 more than trebled, from 37,197 in 2006/7 to 117,278 in 2007/8. It is s.44 that is the basis for most stops and searches of photographers,
The realities of Project Argus appear even madder than when first announced by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. Argus is our liberty-loving democratic government's latest initiative to apprehend terrorists, or photographers as they are sometimes known, using specially trained civic workers and private individuals who just like spying on people.
According to Amateur Photographer "Civilians are being told to be on guard for people carrying cameras and zoom lenses as part of anti-terrorism seminars being rolled out nationwide."
As reported in the Channel M video below (via Boing-Boing), Manchester police arrested Stephen Clarke and detained him for 2 days for apparently photographing a drain cover with his mobile phone. After searching his home and belongings he was eventually released without charge, although his fingerprints and DNA were retained.
Unless you have been in a coma or detained without charge somewhere this week, you have probably already read that several hundred professional and amateur photographers descended on New Scotland Yard on Monday to take photographs as a protest against the Counter Terrorism Act 2008 which came into force on that day.
It is fascinating that the police themselves appear not to have read the legislation they are relying upon for hassling photographers in the name of freedom. Not for the first time the 'operational requirements' of the police (as supported and approved by Home. Sec. Jacqui Smith) are relying on powers that do not exist under s44 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
Yesterday NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear gave evidence of escalating police restriction and intimidation of photojournalists to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights session on policing and protest. The Committee, comprising MP's and members of the Lords, heard Dear describe failure of police to implement the existing ACPO guidelines, intimidatory use of FIT monitoring, arbitrary threats of arrest and use of violence against photographers in public order situations. A DVD containing photographs and video of some of the alleged incidents was given to the Committee.
Turn on the telly at 3am and you may have watched a handful of noble Lords debating the 2008 Counter Terrorism Bill. Their Lordships have maintained a steady to-and-fro of erudite arguments about the rights and wrongs of detention for 42 days without charge. Scant attention has been paid to the problems this Bill creates for photographers, and its implicit and substantial threats to press coverage. As the Bill has been batted back and forth between the Commons, Lords and Committee it has mutated somewhat from the draft discussed here back in March.
In the latest post-committee version, the Part 1 powers of seizure of any 'document', for up to 96hrs during a s.43 search remain intact. As before, this specifically includes electronic documents such as memory cards, laptops, PDA's and mobile phones. However the earlier version contained no recognition of legal privilege. Now seizure of legally privileged documents is prohibited.
In theory this should mean that bona fide journaliists will be able to avoid having their material seized.
In a written answer to Conservative Shadow Attorney General Domininc Grieve, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith yesterday stated that new guidance would be issued to police in November regarding s.44 searches of photographers:-