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    Tuesday, 26 July 2011

    Police, Security and Photography in Public Places: passing the test?

    An interesting film reporting on an investigation into the policing of public and private space by private security firms and their reaction to photographers has been posted on YouTube. The film, entitled 'Stand Your Ground', was directed and produced by Hannah White and edited by Stuart York as part of the London Street Photography Festival.

    Six photographers accompanied by videojournalists spent some time taking pictures of London buildings from public places on 21 June. All six photographers were stopped on at least one occasion by security personnel. Three encounters led to police action. The film highlights the lack of knowledge and training of security personnel, but also the fact that the police officers portrayed acted appropriately on each occasion.

    The study comes in the wake of the 'I'm a Photographer not a Terrorist' campaign, which has recently published a pamphlet setting out its history and successes.

    The experiences of photojournalists have not been entirely rosy of late. The Press Gazette noted recently that the media have been ordered to hand over Belfast riots footage to police, last month an MEN photgrapher was arrested (and then 'de-arrested') while taking photos of a street fight outside a court, while Roy Greenslade yesterday had the unusual story of the photographer, the police, Defra and the parakeets.

    A (not entirely satisfactory) remedial order repealing sections 44-47(1) of the Terrorism Act 2000 and introducing replacement powers as a new s 47A was made by Home Secretary Teresa May in March of this year (see here for the explanatory note). Under a new s 47B, the Home Secretary was obliged to publish a Code of Practice on the use of this revised power (see section 4.5 on photography / journalism). Developments in this respect can be followed on the 'street rights' category on the British Journal of Photography news webpages.

    Friday, 22 July 2011

    'Allo, allo, allo...': the extent of the police trade in confidential information

    It has been reported that the police investigation into phone hacking has been extended to cover the information gleaned by the Information Commissioner's Office in the course of Operation Motorman as well as allegations that police were regularly passing communications data from mobile phones to journalists for payment. In that context, FOI research published this month by the lobby group Big Brother Watch makes illuminating reading.

    The group sought information on the number of police staff who have been disciplined on account of sharing - often trading - in confidential information. A recent reported instance involving a journalist was that of Emma Smiter who was convicted of misconduct in a public office. The Guardian's Media Monkey may also have rehearsed another. The headline results of the research are startling. Between 2007 and 2010

    • 243 Police officers and staff received criminal convictions for breaching the Data Protection Act (DPA)
    • 98 Police officers and staff had their employment terminated for breaching the DPA
    • 904 Police officers and staff were subjected to internal disciplinary procedures for breaching the DPA.

    Either the police are assiduous in uncovering wrongdoers (which, given the trails left when searches are conducted, would not be difficult as soon as one goes looking), or the figures produced by BBW are the tip of an iceberg. Either way, this is one more avenue for the Leveson inquiry to perambulate.

    Wednesday, 6 July 2011

    Hacked Off? Petition for an independent inquiry into phone hacking scandal

    The revelations of the past few days will have stunned even those who have followed the News of the World phone hacking affair closely. A campaign calling for a full public inquiry into phone hacking and other forms of intrusion by the press has been launched. Those interested can find further details and sign a petition at Please also forward details of this campaign.