Just as the madness against photographers in the United Kingdom is reaching its peak, the Home Secretary announced that police will no longer be allowed to stop-and-search photographers under the guise of fighting terrorism.
The announcement comes in the heel’s of the UK’s failed appeal against the European Court of Human Rights, which deemed the Section 44 of Terrorism Act 2000 a violation of human rights.
According to Journalism.com.uk:
In an oral statement given in the House of Commons this afternoon, Theresa May outlined interim measures which would “not allow the continued use of Section 44 (…) in contravention of our civil liberties”.
Speaking to the House she said these new interim measures will “bring section 44 stop and search powers fully into line with the European Court’s judgement”.
However, just because it is no longer legal to use Section 44 to harass photographers doesn’t mean that police will suddenly stop.
They might now turn to Section 43 of the terrorist act to harass photographers as they did on Tuesday to Jules Mattsson.
Mattsson is the teenage photographer who was detained last month for photographer cadets in a military parade and managed to record the entire exchange on an audio recorder.
Police used Section 44 to harass him the first time. They used Section 43 to harass him the second time.
Not that they don’t believe that Section 44 can still be used to harass photographers, according to the British Journal of Photography.
Asked by BJP on the reasons why Mattsson was stopped, a Metropolitan Police spokesman says that “a plain clothes Police Officer stopped and searched a 16-year-old male under Section 43 of the Terrorism Act. The officer spoke to the male about his behaviour. No offences were apparent and no further action was taken by the officer.”
The spokesman adds: “Although taking photos in itself is not an issue, if an officer witnesses what they deem to be suspicious behaviour then they are justified in carrying out a stop.In this instance the officer spoke to him about his behaviour. No offences were apparent and no further action was taken by the officer.”
The Metropolitan Police has also confirmed to BJP that Section 44 remains in place. “The MPS continues to use S44 stop and search powers under the Terrorism Act 2000,” says the spokesman. “S44 remains a legal power under current legislation. The current authority remains in place for it to be used at specific locations across London.”
Section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000 requires reasonable suspicion that a person is a terrorist. Its usage is more limited than Section 44, which doesn’t require suspicion. However, the European Court of Human Rights recently found Section 44 to be illegal.
The act’s Section 43 reads: “A constable may stop and search a person whom he reasonably suspects to be a terrorist to discover whether he has in his possession anything which may constitute evidence that he is a terrorist.”
I suspect this new order against Section 44 will go down much like the operations order issued by the New York City Police Department last year. It will look good on paper but it won’t make a difference on the street.