The Right to Film in Public


Met Police clarifies public photography guidelines

April 22, 2010

More than nine months after first publishing “flawed” guidelines on photography and the use of anti-terrorism powers, the Metropolitan Police has clarified its policies adding, for the first time, that police officers have no right to delete or destroy images. On 09 July 2009, the Metropolitan Police issued a series of guidelines for its police officers that highlighted the rights of photographers when stopped by police forces in the streets of London. But, less than 24 hours later, the guidelines were deemed flawed by a media law expert speaking to BJP.

While the Metropolitan Police’s guidance made it clear that public photography was legal and shouldn’t be restricted with the use of anti-terrorism legislation such as the Terrorism Act 2000, the guidelines did not point out that police officers have no right to delete or to ask a photographer to delete images. Speaking to BJP back in July, Rupert Grey of media law firm Swan Turton, said: “Nowhere is it stated that officers do not have power to delete images or confiscate data cards without a court order. It is not enough just to say that they have the power to seize and retain articles on the basis of reasonable suspicion.’

The new guidelines now state: “Officers do not have the power to delete digital images or destroy film at any point during a search. Deletion or destruction may only take place following seizure if there is a lawful power (such as a court order) that permits such deletion or destruction.”

Photography advice

“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.”

“If someone distressed or bereaved asks the police to stop the media recording them, the request can be passed on to the media, but not enforced.”

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