Authority is stopping lawful taking of photographs

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Authority is stopping lawful taking of photographs Authority is stopping lawful taking of photographs

Thank you for raising issues of photographers' rights in your recent item in the Wanstead and Woodford Guardian, showing photographers taking pictures of a bus, to highlight that local photographers had been having problems since at least 2009 from those in authority trying to stop them from lawfully taking photos in public. Problems for photographers have persisted.

Despite our group sending details to both councillors and officers since 2011, showing that the issue of authority figures stopping people from lawfully taking photographs is of concern for members of BRCASIG, we have had no feedback from Redbridge council regarding what the council has done on the issues to prevent its staff and contractors from acting unlawfully, and to protect the public and their rights to take photographs more generally - whether those photos are taken for leisure, or as evidence, or in the hope of publication, or as part of people's jobs. We have continued to advise council officials of the issues, in the intervening years, including last year contacting Cllr Alex Wilson, then Conservative cabinet member for planning and public protection, at the London Borough of Redbridge. He failed to respond on the photography issues relevant to his portfolio and lost his cabinet position. 

Cllr Wilson, Cllr Kumar, Cllr Patel and Cllr Prince had been at a meeting back in September 2013, at which Redbridge council again attempted to shut a member of the public down from speaking on issues relevant to photography and public freedoms. The speaker had been confident enough to state that he wished to speak anyway, and noted that Redbridge council had tried to prevent the issue being discussed at that meeting, saying, it had tried to "shut it out by saying it is not relevant to the committee workload."

BRCASIG had written to Cllr Kumar, then Conservative cabinet member for leisure as well as to Cllr Prince and Cllr Athwal the following day, and had subsequently forwarded the email to Cllr Patel. We asked, and members still want to know, which Redbridge council committee is leisure "allowed" to be discussed at, as the council had prevented discussion of the topic at Area Committee and attempted to stop it being raised to cabinet?

Cllr Kumar did not respond on the issues falling under his cabinet leisure portfolio, and before the end of 2013 he lost his cabinet role. He lost the confidence of the electorate and failed to even be elected as councillor in May's elections. We had also repeatedly contacted Cllr Patel, who for years was the Liberal cabinet member responsible for safety - which should have included safety of members of the public, including photographers, and in relation to his other portfolio roles which cover aspects for which photographic evidence is of immense importance.

He lost all such roles when he failed to even be elected as councillor, in May's elections. We have continued to advise council officials of the issues still to be addressed, in the years since our group formed in 2011, including contacting Cllr Prince as leader of the council on the issue repeatedly - including after so many members of the public had been supressed from speaking publicly in 2013. Cllr Prince mislead people by his public statement on September 10 2013 that, "A policeman has powers - powers to make a judgement - and to ask the person to desist." If matters we had raised for years had been properly dealt with by Redbridge council, then Cllr Prince SHOULD have known that the Police do NOT have lawful power to stop lawful photography!

Cllr Prince failed to address the issue, and is now no longer leader of the council, since the Conservatives lost out to Labour in the May elections.

We have also raised such issues around authority figures stopping lawful photography to Cllr Athwal, with his responsibilities in Area 6 and as Redbridge's local Labour group leader. We await his response.

BRCASIG (Buckingham Road Cemetery and Surroundings Interest Group)

Comments (1)

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8:28pm Thu 29 May 14

ICapesy says...

Have you contacted Amateur Photographer magazine? I suspect they would be very interested in this story. They have previously met with the Home Office to raise the issue of officials illegally harassing photographers. Worth a call to them on 0203 148 4138.
Have you contacted Amateur Photographer magazine? I suspect they would be very interested in this story. They have previously met with the Home Office to raise the issue of officials illegally harassing photographers. Worth a call to them on 0203 148 4138. ICapesy
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