Monday, 12 January 2009

Photography and the Prime Minister

Some of you may remember the extraordinary saga that surrounded taking photographs of Ramsgate Library click here if you missed it.

At the time I signed a parliamentary petition

Details of Petition:

“Through history, we have documented the world around us, whether through written word, art or photography. Photography in particular has provided fantastic insights into the past and present, and is a hobby enjoyed by millions of people worldwide. But today, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to take photos of our surroundings, particularly in cities like London. In recent years, the price divide between professional and consumer equipment has blurred, and it’s quite common these days to see amateurs and hobbyists carrying around tripods, SLR cameras and a backpack full of equipment. Yet, we are constantly harrassed by security guards and police officers in the name of preventing terrorism. They seem to be operating under a different interpretation of the law to the rest of us, believing that somehow the length of your lens, or size of your camera is relevant. We would like clarification by the goverment on the law regarding photography of buildings and landmarks from public locations.”
Today I received the following response from No 10

“Thank you for your e-petition asking for clarification of the law on photography in public places.
There are no legal restrictions on photography in public places. However, the law applies to photographers as it does to anybody else in a public place. So there may be situations in which the taking of photographs may cause or lead to public order situations, inflame an already tense situation, or raise security considerations. Additionally, the police may require a person to move on in order to prevent a breach of the peace, to avoid a public order situation, or for the person’s own safety or welfare, or for the safety and welfare of others.

Each situation will be different and it would be an operational matter for the police officer concerned as to what action if any should be taken in respect of those taking photographs. Anybody with a concern about a specific incident should raise the matter with the Chief Constable of the relevant force.”


  1. Michael, yet another non answer from uncle gord.

  2. Michael, yet another non answer from uncle gord.

  3. Even with public nudity (ie. my photography) the (potential) offence is "breach of the peace". There's no such thing as "indecent exposure" since the law was changed a few years back, so people sunbathing / posing for pics (etc) in a public place can only be arrested if it is thought that they are deliberately causing offence or breaching the peace by being naked. In reality though the police (at least around here) are pretty tolerant of this sort of thing: a few years back I was photographing a couple of nudes on the seafront in Westbrook near The Nayland Rock Hotel, & when the police came along (after I explained what we were doing) they were happy for us to continue for 5 minutes or so as long as no kids came along.

    Apologies for wandering slightly off topic!

  4. 19.40 It was a bit wasn’t it, one wonders how many civil servants and therefore what it costs to come up with something so carefully non-committal.

    Peter interesting I have just spent some time in Wikipedia looking up the various nudity laws, I have to admit it’s not an aspect of the law I have ever given much thought to, nor was I aware that the law had been changed recently.

    I also noticed that virtually every state in America has different laws on this one, I found interesting how they had tackled what is a rather tricky subject.

  5. That was the most amazing buck passing I have ever read. Truely they have raised it to an art form.

    But reading between the lines it does rather suggest that police can do what they like and one can only ask them to say "sorry" after the fact. That scares me a little.

  6. Michael, I believe the law changed circa March 2004, though TDC also seemed unaware of the law change when they posted signs at Botany Bay a couple of years back! It is NOT illegal to be naked on ANY UK beach unless (a) There are specific by-laws preventing this (& there's none in Thanet), or (b) It can be proven that people were deliberating trying to cause offence by being naked.

    The other main change was that the minimum age for images "of a sexual nature" was increased from 16 to 18, & the law was made retrospective (so in theory Rupert Murdoch could be prosecuted for having topless photos of a 16-year-old Samantha Fox, though in practice the law tends to be used far more sensibly!). The change was made to bring it in line with the USA, as prior to this there was the difficulty of photos that were legal in the UK being seen illegally on the internet by U.S. citizens.


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