Taking photos of police officers could be considered a crime


The British Journal of Photography
January 30, 2009

Set to become law on 16 February, the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 amends the Terrorism Act 2000 regarding offences relating to information about members of armed forces, a member of the intelligence services, or a police officer.

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The new set of rules, under section 76 of the 2008 Act and section 58A of the 2000 Act, will 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’.

A person found guilty of this offence could be liable to imprisonment for up to 10 years, and to a fine.

The law is expected to increase the anti-terrorism powers used today by police officers to stop photographers, including press photographers, from taking pictures in public places. ‘Who is to say that police officers won’t abuse these powers,’ asks freelance photographer Justin Tallis, who was threatened by an officer last week.

Tallis, a London-based photographer, was covering the anti-BBC protest on Saturday 24 January when he was approached by a police officer. Tallis had just taken a picture of the officer, who then asked to see the picture. The photographer refused, arguing that, as a press photographer, he had a right to take pictures of police officers.

According to Tallis, the officer then tried to take the camera away. Before giving up, the officer said that Tallis ‘shouldn’t have taken that photo, you were intimidating me’. The incident was caught on camera by photojournalist Marc Vallée.

Tallis is a member of the National Union of Journalists and the British Press Photographers’ Association. ‘The incident lasted just 10 seconds, but you don’t expect a police officer to try to pull your camera from your neck,’ Tallis tells BJP.


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