An independent film maker and political activist refused to
switch off his camera when he was stopped and searched by police
in London recently, and captured footage that highlights how
police use empty threats and vague language to enforce absurd
Charlie Veitch of The
Love Police was taken aside by a police officer
while filming the outside the heavily protected gates of Downing
Street. (Video below)
Rather than switch off his camera as ordered to by the officer,
he continued to film, noting that it was his right to do so.
"That's fine but under prevention of terrorism I do not
want it pointing at me, otherwise I will seize it, end of conversation."
the officer replies.
This was the first utterly meaningless statement the officer
makes, given that there is no provision under the Terrorism
Act allowing police to seize cameras in public places or to
stop people from filming them, unless they have reasonable suspicion
that the person filming or taking pictures is a terrorist.
The Metropolitan Police have recently issued
guidelines to their officers regarding terrorism
laws and photography/filming, following sustained police abuse
of the provisions against photographers, journalists and members
of the public.
As the guidelines clearly state:
"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
The guidelines go on to state:
"...officers should exercise caution before viewing
images as images acquired or created for the purposes of journalism
may constitute journalistic material and should not be viewed
without a Court Order."
"What is the actual law saying I am not allowed to film
you?" Charlie Veitch asks the officer outside Downing Street.
"Nothing. There is no law to say you can't." The
officer replies, making a complete U-turn, after it becomes
clear that Veitch knows the law.
This highlights how officers such as this one assume that the
people they are stopping under terrorism laws have no knowledge
of their rights and therefore feel they can get away with empty
threats such as "I will seize your camera" and phony
statements such as "under prevention of terrorism laws
you cannot film me."
After the officer requests to see identification under section
44, Veitch informs him that under that section of the Terrorism
Act there is no requirement for him to identify himself - highlighting
yet another common abuse of terrorism laws by police.
The officer then tells Veitch that he will be searching his
bag - officially, police can only search a persons belongings
under the Terrorism Act if they believe you are a terrorist,
even though they are not obliged to show reasonable suspicion.
Filming in public places does not constitute motive for such
reasonable suspicion. Therefore Veitch was within his rights
to decline to be searched.
At this point the officer threatens to arrest Veitch for "failing
to comply with a police officers instructions".
"I can't do anything else other than arrest you because
you have already refused to give me your details, so you leave
me with no alternative other than to box you into a corner."
the officer says.
Veitch, faced with a day of being held in police cells, consents
to the search, which turns up a bullhorn - which Veitch has
to point out is not illegal in any way, shape or form.
The situation descends into near farce when a second officer,
who had previously arrested Veitch enters the scene and the
two attempt to book Veitch, the latter officer eventually asking
"when did I last nick (arrest) you?" while attempting
to recall Veitch's details.
Watch the video:
Though section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 does not prohibit
the filming of police, section 58A of the 2000 Act does.
As of February 17 2009, Section
76 of the Counter Terrorism Act 2008 also prohibits
photographing police and permits the arrest of anyone found
"eliciting, publishing or communicating information"
relating to members of the armed forces, intelligence services
and police officers, which is "likely to be useful to a
person committing or preparing an act of terrorism".
Theoretically, under these anti-terror laws, anyone caught
photographing police could face a fine or a prison sentence
of up to 10 years.
As we have
recently reported, these sections of the respective
Terrorism Acts are being used primarily to target journalists
covering protests, who say they are being targeted by police
surveillance officers more so than the actual protesters. The
law has also been used against tourists snapping pictures of
landmarks and members of the public documenting police misconduct.
However, under these sections, police "must be able to
demonstrate a reasonable suspicion that the information was,
by its very nature, designed to provide practical assistance
to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism".
This means that it is unlawful to arrest anyone for filming
police during the course of normal policing activities, including
The use of "counter-terrorism" stop and search laws
by the police in the UK was ruled
illegal by the European Court of Human Rights in
January, a decision that paves the way for protesters, photographers
and everyday citizens to fight back against such gross invasions
The court in Strasbourg referred to stop and search powers
as not in "accordance with the law", and a violation
of article eight – the right to respect for private and
Judges noted that there is no grounds for considering the powers
"necessary", and that they are only "expedient",
adding that there is a "clear risk of arbitrariness in
granting such broad discretion" to a police officer.
They also stated that the searching clothing and belongings
interferes with the right to privacy as it involves an element
of humiliation and embarrassment.
The use of the powers and their authorisation is "neither
sufficiently circumscribed, nor subject to adequate legal safeguards
against abuse", according to the court.
The court also highlighted a lack of judicial oversight, stating
"The absence of any obligation on the part of the officer
to show a reasonable suspicion made it almost impossible to
prove that the power had been improperly exercised".
The freedom stripping powers continue to be used in the UK with
The powers, which were initially conceived only to be used
in emergency situations, have also come under more intense scrutiny
recently following the publication of multiple sets of figures
highlighting huge increases in stops with a relatively miniscule
In May 2009, data
released to the BBC revealed that the Metropolitan
Police in London used section 44 of the Terrorism Act more than
170,000 times in 2008 to stop people in the capital. That figure
equated to stopping and searching a member of the public every
three minutes under terrorism laws.
The figures represented a more than 140% increase on 2007 numbers.
Of all the stops in 2008, only 65 led to arrests for terror
offences, a success rate of just 0.035%. Furthermore, when you
take into account how many of those arrests have translated
into convictions, according to the Home Office, you come up
with a round figure of 0.0%.
of Justice statistics, published in mid 2008, revealed
that from 2006-2007 police used their powers to stop (but not
search) nearly two million members of the public and demand
they account for their behavior or actions, a rise of one third
from the previous year.
This meant that in just one year around 3.5% of the entire
British population was stopped in the street by the police under
suspicion of terror related offences.
While not resulting in the prevention of any terrorism,
the section 44 powers have been most notably used against the
82-year-old Walter Wolfgang for heckling
Jack Straw at the Labour Conference; Sally Cameron
on a cycle-path in Dundee; the 80-year-old John
Catt for being caught on CCTV passing a demonstration in Brighton;
Isabelle Ellis-Cockcroft for accompanying her parents
to an anti-nuclear protest; and a cricketer on his way to a
match over his possession of a bat.
Anti-terror laws are intended for use on the general
public, they always have been, and now we are seeing the rotten
fruits of continued blind acceptance contaminate every section
of society in this country.
Charlie Veitch and the Love Police previously
encountered London Met Police at the Tower of London and turned
the potentially confrontational run in into an educational youtube
video entitled “How To Escape A Terror Stop”: