Wednesday, Jun 29th, 2010
Jules Mattsson, a 16-year-old freelancer student from Hackney, east London, was ordered to identify himself and stop taking images of the march on Armed Forces Day, this past Saturday.
For his own protection, Mattsson recorded the exchange with police on his mobile phone.
The audio provides evidence of yet another case in which officers are caught inventing imaginary laws, bandying around the Terrorism Act, and forcefully demanding that the public abide by their orders, when they have no legal right to do so.
Officers initially claim that Mattsson needs parental permission to capture images of the cadets who are minors. When Mattsson corrects the officer, noting that there are no restrictions on photographers in public spaces, the officer then claims that it is against the law to photograph police and members of the armed forces.
As the police continue to prevent the student from taking photographs and demand ID, he repeatedly asks them under what law he is being detained.
Eventually one officer replies “We don’t have to have a law.”
Following continued declaration that it is his right to photograph in a public space and that he should be allowed to get on with his work, Mattsson is informed by another officer that he is now “considered a threat under the Terrorism Act”.
As officers forcefully ushered him away from the parade, Mattsson says he was pushed down a short set of stairs and detained for “breaching the peace” until the parade passed.
Listen to the exchange:
At just 16 years of age, Mattsson’s knowledge of his rights as a photographer and a member of the public, his declaration that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in a public place, and his bravery in standing up to several forceful uniformed aggressors should be commended.
The notion that this teenager was “breaching the peace” as he was pushed down a flight of steps by a gaggle of thug officers is ridiculous. Given that Mattsson has been advised not to publicly comment on the incident, he is thought to be considering legal action.
Matteson’s case is not an isolated incident. As we have repeatedly highlighted, photographers and film makers are routinely stopped and harassed under terrorism laws and routinely have their material seized and even deleted by police on a daily basis in London.
Only rarely are such incidents captured on film or recorded on audio devices. Another such case was recorded last December when a young woman was harassed, accused of being a terrorist, and forcefully tackled by police when they noticed her filming a building.
Watch the video and note how the officer, hands in pockets, chewing gum, declares that she is being “cocky” when she is simply standing up for her rights:
In another case, this time in a different UK town, an amateur photographer was arrested under anti-terror laws and detained in a police station for eight hours after taking pictures of Christmas celebrations.
The man refused to provide his details after he was approached by a police community support officer (PCSO) who told him “Because of the Terrorism Act and everything in the country, we need to get everyone’s details who is taking pictures of the town.”
The most worrying thing about these cases is the fact that officers seem to really believe that they are acting within the law. As the Association of Chief Police Officers recently noted in a strongly worded memo to all officers, the idea that anti-terror laws prohibit photography is an “internal urban myth.”
As we highlighted in our article last week, following a similar incident in London involving film maker and activist Charlie Veitch, The Metropolitan Police have recently issued guidelines to their officers regarding legal protocol on photography/filming, following sustained police abuse of terrorism provisions against photographers, journalists and members of the public.
As the guidelines clearly state:
“Members of the public and the media do not need a permit to film or photograph in public places and police have no power to stop them filming or photographing incidents or police personnel.”
The guidelines go on to state:
“…officers should exercise caution before viewing images as images acquired or created for the purposes of journalism may constitute journalistic material and should not be viewed without a Court Order.”
Though there are provisions under section 58A of the 2000 Terrorism Act and Section 76 of the Counter Terrorism Act 2008 which prohibit photographing police and members of the armed forces, police “must be able to demonstrate a reasonable suspicion that the information was, by its very nature, designed to provide practical assistance to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”.
This means that it is unlawful to arrest or detain anyone for filming or photographing police during the course of normal policing activities, including parades, protests, or simply walking down the street.
This was noted in court last week as two investigative photojournalists received an apology and financial compensation from the Metropolitan Police after being forcibly prevented from working by officers at a political protest outside the Greek Embassy in 2008.
As for photographing children, again there are no restrictions in public, something Met police should be well aware of given the fact that Scotland Yard recently admitted its officers have been photographing children who are stopped and searched, even after they have been found to be innocent of any offence, and keeping the pictures on a database for “intelligence-gathering purposes”.