After protest and parliamentary questions, The Register reports this week that the London Metropolitan Police have finally got round to reminding their officers that it is not in fact a criminal offence for ordinary people to take photographs or video in public places, nor even to take pictures of police officers. The way that many Met officers had been acting over the past couple of years with harassment of photographers, even tourists in some cases, and arrests under the Terrorism Act, there appeared to be a deliberate attempt to change or extend the meaning of the law by police policy. This was at the same time that the Met had been running campaigns stating that it was suspicious for anyone to be interested in CCTV. Part of this is also the fault of the Act (and others like it, including the recent Counter-Terrorism Act), which are very broadly drawn and easily subject to extreme interpretation by those who would want to abuse them to attack individual liberties.
This isn’t over yet however; there are many other police forces in the rest of the country and also quasi-police (community support officers, town centre managers etc.) as well as private security, who need to recognise that the public have a right to take photographs in public, and should not be harassed, assaulted or threatened with some non-existent sanction for a perfectly legal pastime.