Thursday, April 16, 2009
Despite police claiming that an ambiguous section of the UK Counter Terrorism Act of 2008 would not outlaw taking photographs or film of police, a man was detained as a terror suspect this week simply for taking a photograph of a police car in order to document police misconduct.
62-year-old Malcolm Sleath, who is chairman of his local park society, saw a police car driving erratically down a North London park footpath, despite the fact that by law police are supposed to investigate on foot in such circumstances.
He began filming the police car to document the misconduct so that he could later present it to the chief sergeant.
Sleath was subsequently approached by the two officers in the car and was told he was being detained because he had breached Section 44 of the Terrorism Act.
“(The officer) was clearly embarrassed to be photographed where he shouldn’t have been and wanted to intimidate me,” said Sleath.
Section 44 previously only allowed police officers to stop and search somebody on “reasonable grounds” but that has now been changed and is no longer necessary, leading to an explosion in frivolous stop and search incidents. 44% of complaints made about stop and search allege assault by police officers.
However, the nature of Sleath’s detainment raises questions about whether police were actually enforcing 58A of the 2000 Terrorism Act, a passage replicated in the 2008 Counter Terrorism Act.
As we have previously highlighted, this section contains ambiguous language which suggests that merely filming or photographing police officers is an act of terrorism. When journalist organizations expressed fears that this law could effectively outlaw a huge part of their profession, they were told by PC Alan Cousins of the Metropolitan Police Film Unit that the law would not impede them.
Cousins stated that taking photos of police officers “would not be caught by this offence,” but added that it could be in “exceptional circumstances”.
In London, filming anything is treated as a sign of potential terrorism. We were filming floral tributes left at the entrance to Stockwell tube station where Jean Charles De Menezes was brutally gunned down by police in July 2005. We were approached by a police officer and subsequently entered into the terror database – ostensibly for filming flowers without permission from the government.
Britain has around 4.2 million CCTV cameras – one for every fourteen people – and Big Brother has carte blanche to watch us 24/7 – but woe betide we actually turn the camera back on the authorities, because that makes us a potential terrorist.
Indeed, a recent London Metropolitan Police poster campaign directly implied that filming a CCTV camera was a probable act of terrorism and encouraged people to report anyone for doing so.
The video below shows UK police threatening a man with reprisals for filming them, claiming that it is an offence to record the police. The cops phone the police station and are told that there is no law that forbids the public from filming them. However, this was two years ago, before the recent amendment to the law was passed.
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