MP pushes for debate over photographer stops

Mark Hughes,Crime Correspondent
Thursday 10 December 2009 19:40 GMT

A parliamentary debate over the alleged abuse of Section 44 terror legislation against photographers should be heard, MPs were told today.

David Heath, the Liberal Democrat frontbencher, said that ordinary people taking photographs were being stopped and searched “on the whim” of officers misusing the anti-terror laws.

His comments come after The Independent highlighted the apparent widespread misuse of the legislation which has seen photographers stopped for taking pictures of famous landmarks such as St Paul’s Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament and even a fish and chip shop in Chatham.

This week a cross-party group of MPs added their weight to the issue, signing a Commons motion calling on police to “recognise that the joy photography and happy snapping brings to citizens and tourists alike should not be inhibited”.

During questions on future business Mr Heath said: “I wonder if we could have a debate on what I can only term abuse of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act by police.

“It is not satisfactory that people up and down the country are being stopped, are being told that they can’t take photographs and if they have taken photographs are asked to delete them from their cameras, on the whim, it would appear, of police officers.

“So far we have had people who have been told they are not to take a picture of Christ Church in the City, of St Paul’s, of railway wagons, of Christmas lights and of Mick’s Plaice - a fish and chip shop in Chatham.

“These are not prime terrorist activities and I do think the police need some education in the very, very strong powers that we give them in this House to make sure they are not used improperly.”

Commons Leader Harriet Harman told Mr Heath he could raise the matter with Home Secretary Alan Johnson in Home Office questions next week.

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