Photography and the Law
Editor's note: Joshua Rozenberg launched Law in Action, Radio 4's magazine programme about the law, over a quarter of a century ago and now, after 23 years away, he's back to present the programme again. In his first programme he covers the changing law about photography in public places - SB.
"You can't take pictures of my building," I was told by the rather insistent woman who identified herself as the building manager.
My producer and I had been following an architectural photographer around the City of London. The man with the camera had told us what might happen.
First, the private security guards would order us to stop taking photographs from the public footpath - even though they were taking pictures of us on CCTV.
If we refused to stop, they would call the police. We could then expect to be searched under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. Officers could inspect the pictures recorded on our camera.
Then - unless we really were terrorists - we could carry on taking pictures for as long as we liked.
All this went through my mind as the building manger and a burly security guard tried to shoo us away. What should we do?
To begin with, we stood our ground. The photographer carried on snapping. I continued holding a large and very visible microphone. And my loyal producer, wearing headphones, continued recording.
Eventually, the building manager lost patience. "Call the police," she ordered the guard standing behind her.
Two thoughts went through my mind. An audio recording of me being searched under anti-terrorism powers would be a great way to start the new series of Law in Action. On the other hand, it might just persuade the BBC that I should never present the programme again.
For one thing, we were shortly to interview the Assistant Commissioner of the City Police. He might be slightly less generous with his time if we had wasted the time of his constables.
And, for another, I have managed to reach the age of 60 without troubling the police over any more than a couple of minor motoring matters. Did I really want my name linked to anti-terrorist searches on a police computer somewhere?
I made an excuse and left. We began Law in Action with the building manager instead.
And the police later assured me that I hadn't been breaking the law.
Joshua Rozenberg is presenter of Law in Action on BBC Radio 4.
- The first in the new series of Law in Action is on the Radio 4 web site. The next episode is on Tuesday 15 June at 1630.
- The Terrorism Act 2000 is on the OPSI web site.
- The Press Gazette covered Joshua's return to Radio 4.
- The picture, taken at a protest against the Act in Trafalgar Square, is by Sarah. Used under licence.