A young photographer was accused of being a threat under the
Terrorism Act and eventually pushed down a flight of stairs
by London police after he refused to stop photographing officers
and cadets during a public parade.
Jules Mattsson, a 16-year-old
freelancer student from Hackney, east London, was ordered to
identify himself and stop taking images of the march on Armed
Forces Day, this past Saturday.
For his own protection, Mattsson recorded the exchange with
police on his mobile phone.
The audio provides evidence of yet another case in which officers
are caught inventing imaginary laws, bandying around the Terrorism
Act, and forcefully demanding that the public abide by their
orders, when they have no legal right to do so.
Officers initially claim that Mattsson needs parental permission
to capture images of the cadets who are minors. When Mattsson
corrects the officer, noting that there are no restrictions
on photographers in public spaces, the officer then claims that
it is against the law to photograph police and members of the
As the police continue to prevent the student from taking photographs
and demand ID, he repeatedly asks them under what law he is
Eventually one officer replies "We don’t have to
have a law."
Following continued declaration that it is his right to photograph
in a public space and that he should be allowed to get on with
his work, Mattsson is informed by another officer that he is
now "considered a threat under the Terrorism Act".
As officers forcefully ushered him away from the parade, Mattsson
says he was pushed down a short set of stairs and detained for
"breaching the peace" until the parade passed.
Listen to the exchange:
At just 16 years of age, Mattsson's knowledge of his rights
as a photographer and a member of the public, his declaration
that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in a public
place, and his bravery in standing up to several forceful uniformed
aggressors should be commended.
The notion that this teenager was "breaching the peace"
as he was pushed down a flight of steps by a gaggle of thug
officers is ridiculous. Given that Mattsson has been advised
not to publicly comment on the incident, he is thought to be
considering legal action.
Only rarely are such incidents captured on film or recorded
on audio devices. Another such case was recorded last December
when a young woman was harassed, accused of being a terrorist,
and forcefully tackled by police when they noticed her filming
Watch the video and note how the officer, hands in pockets,
chewing gum, declares that she is being "cocky" when
she is simply standing up for her rights:
In another case, this time in a different UK town, an amateur
photographer was arrested under anti-terror laws and detained
in a police station for eight hours after taking
pictures of Christmas celebrations.
The man refused to provide his details after he was approached
by a police community support officer (PCSO) who told him "Because
of the Terrorism Act and everything in the country, we need
to get everyone's details who is taking pictures of the town."
The most worrying thing about these cases is the fact that
officers seem to really believe that they are acting within
the law. As the Association
of Chief Police Officers recently noted in a strongly
worded memo to all officers, the idea that anti-terror laws
prohibit photography is an "internal urban myth."
As we highlighted
in our article last week, following a similar incident
in London involving film maker and activist Charlie Veitch,
The Metropolitan Police have recently issued
guidelines to their officers regarding legal protocol
on photography/filming, following sustained police abuse of
terrorism 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."
Though there are provisions under section 58A of the 2000 Terrorism
Act and Section
76 of the Counter Terrorism Act 2008 which prohibit
photographing police and members of the armed forces, 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 or detain anyone for
filming or photographing police during the course of normal
policing activities, including parades, protests, or simply
walking down the street.
This was noted
in court last week as two investigative photojournalists
received an apology and financial compensation from the Metropolitan
Police after being forcibly prevented from working by officers
at a political protest outside the Greek Embassy in 2008.
As for photographing children, again there are no restrictions
in public, something Met police should be well aware of given
the fact that Scotland
Yard recently admitted its officers have been photographing
children who are stopped and searched, even after they have
been found to be innocent of any offence, and keeping the pictures
on a database for "intelligence-gathering purposes".