Thanet Star

Police free to take whatever they want, whenever they want to

In case you harbored any dreams that human rights and things like basic freedom existed in Kent as they no longer do in the country as a whole I have some bad news for you. This simply is not the case, as this story illustrates.

For as long as there have been camera people have used them to take pictures of other people. We seem to like looking at each other, especially when we know each other. One example of this is crowds.

Some of the best and most usful documentary evidence of a particular event in terms of history comes from photographs of crowds. Indeed much of the cannon of "art" produced by photographers is of crowds of strangers doing whatever they do. It is generally accepted that if you are out in public then you can be seen by other people and that includes other people taking photographs.

To be honest no one taking pictures of crowds is interested in you particularly but only in the crowd you are part of. We are past the stage where we are worried that photographs steel you soul and so long as we don't have to see the photograph, on the whole, we are not worried about the content. The average street photographer is unlikely to do much more than store the photograph in his portfolio to "show what he can do".

If the image does make it to an art gallery you can be sure that it is because you presence in the image makes it look good.

We are photographed all the time. CCTV takes unflattering pictures of us that might be shown on TV if "there was a crime" while photo ID means that most agencies of law, order and taxation have or have access to a photograph of you.

On top of that newspapers take pictures of crowds where ever something news worth is happening and in a sporting event that you attend you might be the dot next to the other dots that make up the crowd. People with cameras in their phones take surreptitious images of each other and strangers all the time and then send them to each other: "look at this fatty" or "check out this chic".

If you are in public then you are in the public eye. Especially with you-know-who and his plane taking "covert" images of us. That, on the other hand, is "okay" because he is a councilor (unlike the man in our story today). As we all know laws do not apply to those with money.

However, despite the "covert nature" of much of the above nothing is ever done about it. This is because we are unaware and it is "no big deal" according to the average man on the street.

When Steve Carroll was in Hull recently he did what any photographer with some time on his hands would do. He took photographs in the city's Prospect Centre. But the police ...took his film because he seemed to be operating in "a covert manner" [source].

Now let's just backtrack a moment. This would be in a "covert" CCTV area, right? Who exactly was being secretive.

Rightfully the man complained but, according to the police, the letter of law says: "Officers have common law powers of seizure".

Now forgive me if I am being dense but are we talking about the Video Recordings Act 1984 which only allows for seizure if there might be evidence on the footage of a crime already under investigation? Or maybe the Criminal Justice Act 1988 "The power of seizure conferred by section 93I(5) of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (seizure of material relevant to investigation of whether a person has benefited from criminal conduct)."

It could not be the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 as that would require an arrest and materials must be released if no charges are made.

I think to be honest this is the "Make-It-Up-As-You-Go-Along and Harass-Anyone-You-Don't-Like Act of whenever". Which is part of the "do what we say or else you will be hurt" approach to community policing.

Of course being critical of the utterly unless police force of this area is probably a crime under the Make-It-Up-As-You-Go-Along rules so I'll see you when I'm old and gray and only have one eye and some of my limbs.

"Mr Carroll lodged a complaint against Humberside Police but an investigation concluded its officers acted correctly."
BBC NEWS | England | Humber | Police seize photographer

Yes of course they did, love. The police can do no wrong with vague rules like "cease whatever you want, say whatever you want and arrest whoever you want" to. Just so long as you get you quota...

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Public Comments

This Normal comment was left by Michael Child [score: 0]:

Matt I am always taking loads of pictures and video footage of people I donít know, I wonder what the offence will be? Compiling local history perhaps I suppose with no museums or local collections it wonít matter that much in the future.

I am trying to write a page to link it all together http://www.thanetonline.com... what amazed me after reading your post and looking at some of my own pictures is how soon they become of historical significance.
23/01/2008 15:03:15

This Normal comment was left by Matt B [score: 0]:

My point exactly. The whole issue of documentary photography was something that really struck me when I studied it at A level many years ago.

If you want a hand creating a site for such things I do a very nice line in setting up and customising content management systems. CMS (much like blogger.com) separate the layout and stuff from the putting the content into it. I could see you doing very well with such a system behind you.

While I'm not free I don't charge that much. Maybe I'll do a post about it.
23/01/2008 18:44:51

This Normal comment was left by Michael Child [score: 0]:

Matt the problem with this is always the size and ease of publishing my combined sites http://thanetonline.com/ and http://www.michaelsbookshop... have hundreds of pages mostly pictures of this area. It is a maze rather like a secondhand bookshop, not surprising I suppose. Most weeks I add a hundred or so pictures usually cutting and pasting in block of about 20 at once, as I donít get a lot of time. So although the whole thing really needs rewriting it wouldnít be much use to me if I couldnít just stick up another 100 pictures with less than 5 mins work. I use a cranky old program that looks like the website on the pc when I have added what I want it sorts out all of the stuff like ftp, the webstats say I get about 5000 unique visitors a month some buy books some complain about my spelling, oddly enough the image pages that go sideways like http://www.michaelsbookshop... come in for a lot of criticism then there are the sites that I have done for other people like http://www.thanetonline.com... yes it all needs sorting out but I figure there is a lot more work there than would be viable.
25/01/2008 15:35:16

This Normal comment was left by Matt B [score: 0]:

Exactly. Who wants to have to do more work. My philosophy is that if I do work for or with a client it should reduce the effort they have to make.

I am a programmer because I am lazy and I like my computer to do all the hard work. As I mention in a different post - I'm impressed with what you have been able to do especially as you had to learn it from scratch mostly on your own.
26/01/2008 07:53:57
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