Photographer Takes Photos of Town Hall, Is Arrested Under Anti-Terror Laws

Photographer Takes Photos of Town Hall, Is Arrested Under Anti-Terror Laws

This week a British photographer was detained by police and subjected to searches of his camera after police suspected him of terrorism.

Eddie Mitchell, a press photographer who works for media outlets such as the BBC, was taking pictures of Hove town hall on Thursday afternoon when he was approached by a member of police staff. Citing that he wasn’t breaking any laws, Mitchell declined to give the officer any of his personal details or the reasoning behind his photo taking.

He was instructed to visit a local police station to give a statement, where he was subsequently detained under section 43 of the Terrorism Act. The act gives police the right to stop and search anyone they “reasonably suspect to be a terrorist.” Sussex police confirmed that Mitchell was searched due to refusing to “provide information or identification.”

Mitchell said of the incident:

I respect wholeheartedly that the police have a job to do, but there should be clarity on people taking pictures in a public place — it is not a crime … As far as I am concerned, it is a total misuse and abuse of power.

Lisa Bell, chief superintendent of Sussex police, claims the incident could have been resolved in minutes had Mitchell co-operated.

National Police Chiefs Council guidance states: “Police should not prevent anyone from taking photographs in public. This applies equally to members of the media and public seeking to record images, who do not need a permit to photograph or film in public places.”

Were the police just doing their job? Was this photographer right to withhold his personal information?

[via The Guardian]

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Reginald Walton's picture

Just proves that the terrorists have won. They've taken away our simple liberties.

Abuse of power. Taking photos is not inherently suspicious, nor is it illegal, millions of people take photos with their phones and those images can be as high res as consumer grade dslr. So there is absolutely no justification for the police questioning him, unless there is another reason outside of the photography, and if so that should of been the reason listed for the questioning.

As a free citizen you don't have to answer any questions you don't want to, especially if you're not doing anything illegal.

Paul Parkinson's picture

Good grief. I thought this was all done and dusted years ago. The Police Officers have attempted to abuse their power here, completely. He was taking pictures. That is not illegal. He did not have to give them any information about himself. That is not illegal.

Top tip - in this situation ask them "Am I being detained?" If the answer is no, off you trot. If they say yes, ask them under what grounds? What ever they say then can be used against them later. It's harassment, pure and simple.

Terrorism? Tosh! The terrorists can get better and more information from Google Maps Streetview - if they need to fill in any gaps, just rock up with an iPhone...

Simon Patterson's picture

Actually, he was detained. I bet he has zero recourse, no matter what the police said at the time. Top tip - don't be a nob to the (often fickle) guys with the power to arrest you under draconian "terror laws".

How would you react if there stands "Terrorist catched while he was planning his assassination"
Disguised as a tourist he took pictures of the town hall....

I would be highly disappointed in the horrendous grammar.

Michael Kormos's picture

"Mitchell declined to give the officer any of his personal details or the reasoning behind his photo taking."

So he refused to give the officers his name or the reasons why he was photographing a government building and everyone is up in arms that he got arrested? Maybe if he wasn't a jerk to the cops and politely showed them his press badge none of this would've happened.

Geoffrey Badner's picture

"the incident could have been resolved in minutes had Mitchell co-operated"

He was cooperating with the law, not the officers requests. Often times, police confuse those two things.

Anonymous's picture

So you only cooperate with people when legally required to do so?

the police were working within the law as well.

Michael Yearout's picture

Why refuse to show your drivers license (identification) and explain why you are taking photographs of a government building? He was just asking for trouble.

Good little boot licker, always do exactly as you are told and never question authority even when their request are not legal.

because their requests were legal under Section 43 of the Terrorism Act.

Anonymous's picture

I photograph secured government sites and have to get advance permission and phone in from an off-site call box to get in. Then I have to sign in at an administrative building and am often escorted everywhere. Upon leaving, I have to sign out. Cameras watch me enter and exit.

A few times, I've only needed a few shots taken from off site so I didn't bother with permission. Every time, within a few minutes someone drives out and asks for a lot more than my drivers license. I politely give them the required information and we both go about our day. A couple times, they've invited me in if I needed access. No problems.

If people weren't so damn worried about their rights and considered the position of others, there'd be a lot fewer stories like this one.

Postscript: Once, when I wasn't escorted, I got so wrapped up in my work that I stayed past when everyone left, forgetting I was there. I waited several hours, courtesy of a 12-foot fence and 3 strands of barbed wire, before someone came back to let me out. That's a whole other story! :-)

Simon Patterson's picture

Fascinating stories! And of course it is better to be open and polite, rather than being inconsiderate and demanding rights.

And isn't it ironic - the one time you wanted someone from security to come over to you, you had to wait for hours!

Spy Black's picture

"If people weren't so damn worried about their rights and considered the position of others, there'd be a lot fewer stories like this one."

Yes, it's so foolish to be worried about your rights...

Anonymous's picture

To the exclusion of consideration for others? Yes.
Balance in all things.

Spy Black's picture

You don't give up your rights to be polite.

Anonymous's picture

I don't see "being polite" so much as a right, to be exercised at my leisure, but more like the right (no pun intended :-)) thing to do.

Spy Black's picture

Being polite or considerate has nothing to do with your rights. If you need to get violent to defend them, so be it. Otherwise you wind up in a police state.

Anonymous's picture

I generally agree with your words but don't believe they apply to this situation. In any interaction, there are contributing variables which go unreported. Since this audience is not privy to them, some assume the worst of the policeman while others take a more measured approach. Perhaps you think the latter to be timid or naïve. I assure you, in my case it's not.
I'd rather incorrectly assume the best of people than the alternative. Of course, if they prove my assumptions to be in err, we WILL have a problem.

don't you see you do have to cooperate? If you don't they can legally make your life less pleasurable. So what is the point. The police in this story are simply doing their job. The photographer "cut off his nose to spite his face." as the saying goes.

Nick Pecori's picture

One thing I noticed right away when I visited the UK last month is they DO NOT like cameras...anywhere. I pulled my camera out waiting for the tube to come and an official walked up to me telling me to put it away. I remember a few instances where I was doing some street photography and security officers did the same.

Jack Alexander's picture

I've been escorted back to ground level before for taking some really low-key snaps of a model friend in the tube tunnels, just the two of us. They don't like it at all...

It's simple, you need a license to take photos or film in the underground in London. It isn't forbidden, you just need to do it the rugby way.

Daniel Haußmann's picture

A couple of years back I tried to film tube driving through tunnels using a DSLR + Tripod. Pretty soon someone approached me and asked to stop. Welcome to the age of meaningless paranoia.

again, you need a license to film or take photos in London underground. You can apply for it on their website. If you are on your own with just a small camera no one cares, but with models or tripods is another story.

I think the paranoia is so justified.

Daniel Haußmann's picture

Oh is it? Because terrorists spy with DSLRs?

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