There are no powers prohibiting the taking of photographs, film or digital images in a public place. Therefore members of the public and press should not be prevented from doing so.
Memo to all police forces by Chief Constable Andrew Trotter Chair of ACPO Communication Advisory Group dated August 2010.
Three different videos. Each with the same story to tell: That the police seem to think they have special immunity from being filmed:
The first video was sent to us by a reader who has found himself being repeatedly harassed by officers of Hampshire police for daring to make a complaint about one of their beloved colleagues. As he catches the same bus home from his work at a care home each day the police know where he will be stood. They have mounted a campaign of harassment against him by pulling up in their vehicles and shouting “Did you just give me the finger” then threatening him with a S5 public order charge. I told him to film it the next time he was approached and this was the resulting video of the officer assaulting him in an attempt to stop him from filming.
This second video was sent by a reader who had witnessed, what appeared to be, armed police stood in a high street of Castleford. As you can see from the video he films them at quite a reasonable distance. The smallest officer of the group – and no doubt the one with the biggest Napoleon complex – peels away by stealth to launch a sneak attack on the cameraman.
Hampshire police again. This reader is curious as to why the police are sat outside his flat with a dashboard lit up like a flight-deck. The police officer gets out of his vehicle to attack the cameraman and later on, the professional standards department excuse his assault by saying that the cameraman ‘invaded the officer’s personal space.’ Of course he did. Presumably by not getting out of the way quick enough when the officer lunged at him.
Why would anyone want to record the police in the first place, you might ask? If you are a policeman then the time to ask that is when you get right up in the face of the person making the recording, before grabbing at the device and making threats.
Then later, if you are an officer in the complaints department – whose job it is to excuse away such an assault – you can answer that question in favour of one of your colleagues. By suggesting that only terrorists would want to film our state law enforcers at work. If not terrorists then criminal agitators, who just want to provoke and harass the police by pointing mobile phones at them.
Why else would anyone do it?
Well, how about for potential evidence? That’s why I record the police. So should they choose to say or do something that is cause for concern, I can save them the bother of having to lie about it later.
How about for protection? Because most people will modify their behaviour when they know they are being recorded. Perhaps at first by screeching and protesting about their mythical right not to be filmed. Then, when the recording continues in spite of their protest, they will either make a hasty retreat or behave more reasonably. Both of which are desirable outcomes as far as the police are concerned.
How about crime prevention? Isn’t that the excuse both the police and local authority give us for the 5.9 million or so CCTV cameras that record us without our permission whenever we are in public. Why should one more matter just because it happens to be in the hands of a perfectly visible member of the public? Rather than in the hands of an unseen camera operator sat a control desk zooming and panning in on us from a hundred different angles. Also, as the police seem to believe they are above the law, I can think of no greater guarantee of likely criminal behaviour then your average uniformed officer.
Lastly, and by no means leastly, how about because it is your right? Isn’t the general rule of the British constitution that anything which isn’t prohibited at law is permissible? Just because somebody works for the law, does not give them the right to decide what should be illegal and enforce that instead. That would be taking advantage of their powers of office. Which is also a criminal act by the way. Misconduct in Public Office it is often called. Or there’s Section 26 of the Courts and Criminal Justice Act which was introduced only last year, to prevent the police from abusing the powers that they wield over us…
…Such as grabbing at cameras that are recording in public. A place where nobody has a right to privacy. A fact which should be self evident from the word ‘public.’ Nor is there any article of the human rights act that qualifies a right to privacy in public.
So to get to the point, if you are stood on the street, any street, (or stood in your own home or garden) then you have a right to film whomever and whatever you like. You do not need permission. You don’t need a permit. You don’t even have to give a reason. You are totally within your rights to record the police with or without their knowledge whenever and for whatever. And unless you are obviously and persistently using the camera to harass and intimidate, no offence is created – nor can one be reasonably suspected – just by taking a mobile phone out of your pocket and pointing it at the police.
Always record the police!
This is a policy that I ritually abide by. I encourage everyone to do the same. Not just for the reasons I have listed above, but so the police learn to live with it. They need to be educated. They need to be monitored. The state won’t be doing anything about that any time soon so let’s do it for them. Let’s enforce that openness and transparency their chief constables are always blathering on about.
More to the point, let’s sue them every single time they prevent us from recording them in public. And by prevention I don’t mean their childish and petulant requests to put the camera away. They are totally within their rights, as we all are, to make requests. By prevention I mean any physical act or verbal threat made to stop you against your will. Such as grabbing at you and your camera; Threatening to seize your camera or arrest you if you don’t stop. These are instances of assault and battery at civil law. Which means if the police have so much as brushed your camera hand away or threatened to do it for you, then you can issue a letter of claim and demand around £500 in compensation.
If you’re curious as to how straightforward it is to sue the police for stopping you from recording, can I recommend you purchase a copy of ‘Take on the Police And Win’ if you haven’t already. As an additional incentive, I have also prepared a template letter for this specific type of claim, which I will forward to anyone who buys or has already bought this Ebook.
Again, let me encourage everyone who has been assaulted by the police for attempting to record them to sue the chief constable of the force concerned.
The more claims that the police have to pay out, the more likely it is that this thuggish incursion of people’s rights will end and we can start to hold the police more accountable for what they do and say.