back to article Top cop's 'stop stopping snappers' memo: Too little too late?

As yet another senior copper reads the riot act to his fellow officers over the policing of photographers, concerns are growing amongst senior ranks that this is all too little too late – and that serious damage has now been done to relations with the public over this issue. John Yates, Assistant Commissioner Specialist …


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  1. Billy 8

    And yet today the Beeb are carrying this...

    "Film of 'terror targets' released ... The footage was released to explain why police may stop people who are filming. "

  2. Scott 19

    If i didn't

    Have to worry about an E-CRB check for my job i'd be out there protesting, catch-22 boys and girls, go against the establishment once and find yourself outside the 'Law' abiding society.'

    Its that slippery slope and we're at tipping point, Police doing what the hell they want and guberment not giving a s*it as long as you pay your taxes.

    And its a joke round here but if you gave the option that every UK citizen work up with a bar code on there head linked to a DB in UK.Gov central do you think them in power would vote 'yes'? (excluding themselves).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      The BBC are planning a feature on the "Italian affair"

      I know they're aware of the incident and are planning a feature - I relish the thought of Jeremy Paxman grilling the actual coppers involved, one by one. I'd buy a DVD of that..

      If this goes to court I'd gladly help with the defence fund.

  3. Gordon861

    BBC Article

    Very convienient bit of timing for the police :

    And the suspects aren't in the UK anymore so they can't sue the police for liable either.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not just photography...

    This isn't just about photography. And it's not at all about terrorism. It's about police forces so out of control, they're becoming a serious public nuisance - the kind of nuisance they're supposed to protect us from. Quota-led police forces addicted to cheap pinches. Police officers of a calibre that once would have disgraced a car-park attendant. PCSOs - often little more than failed traffic wardens - whose motives for joining up have more to do with petty power than crime prevention

    In my own area, I've seen sensible, conscientious officers gradually disappear, to be replaced with jobsworths I wouldn't trust to post a letter let alone fight crime. It's not coincidence - it's policy. Catch terrorists? Most of our local police couldn't catch common cold.

    The next time you're stopped - whether it's for photography of a dodgy rear light - ask around about what was happening - crime-wise - in the vicinity right then. There's a fighting chance you were simply an excuse for Mr Plod not being where he was damn well supposed to be...

    1. Stef 4

      @ John 186

      I find myself agreeing with you. While once I would have said that you were just rambling on about "Things ain't what they used to be..." I think you are pretty much spot on.

      As for PCSOs and 'specials', I think they are encouraged to do that role as a way to enter the police. But of course that will never happen as there will always be a reason to not accept them onto the force. Why would they pay them when they can get away with giving them peanuts to wear a uniform in public and dangle the carrot of full employment in their faces "Bad luck, you didn't get in this either. Try again next year, I'll see you on Saturday night as you patrol the city center."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down


        Couldn't agree more. I think these "volunteer" police forces should be more carefully selected. It does appear that the old adage, power corrupts....

        The way these people go ordering people around is an embarrassment to the UK. We are slowly becoming a police state.

    2. Anonymous John



      "Two men were subsequently convicted of a huge mobile phone and luxury goods fraud scam and deported after serving prison sentences."

      This was only last year. Considering how long it takes to bring cases to trial, they weren't banged up for long, were they? Not for a huge fraud or terrorist offences.

      We just have to take Plod's word that it ever happened.

  5. davenewman

    Doesn't happen in Northern Ireland

    I don't know of anyone stopped for photographing public buildings in Northern Ireland. Photograph the private residence of a Policing Board member, on the other hand ...

    Most PSNI officers know the difference between a terrorist and a tourist.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      The difference is less clear..

      ..if you have a slurry George Dubyah Boosh accent, sadly.

  6. Jamie Kitson

    "Justification" on the BBC just now

  7. Paul 4

    Police chase shot out flashy flashy shows

    already show a big place police are going wrong. They confuse assertivness with agressivness. It would be so much better if they were trained to deal with the public in a better way.

    I do not have a bad oppinion of the police, and I do not think the problem is down to inherant problems, but just to bad training, or lack of training. To many of them think that standing and shouting "shutit you slag" should get people to calm down, when all the need to do is say, in a calm voice "please do not speak to me like that." etc etc. I know it sounds like hippy crap, but people respond to aggresion with more aggresion or fear. Its part of being a human.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Terrorist Reconnaissance? Rubbish!

      That little video doesn't look like terrorist reconnaissance to me. Looks more like someone playing with a new video camera, trying it out, because they were too impatient to wait until they got home to take their shiny new toy out of its box and start playing with it. I really can't see how zooming in on a tube map (copies of which you can easily buy in shops), or filming adverts in a lift, is going to help terrorists.

      Or maybe the alleged terrorist was just disguising the reconnaissance video as someone just playing with their video camera? Fooled me! But then, if we start suspecting people just because they might, just possibly, be disguising their terrorist activity as just ordinary, mundane toying around with things, then we've allowed the terrorists to scare us into fearing ordinary, every day stuff. And, of course, ordinary, innocent people end up getting dealt with as terror suspects - just as various photographers are finding.

      And I can't say I'm convinced by the police line that the CPS could have done them for terrorism, but decided not to since it wouldn't have made a difference to the sentence. Sounds more like the police think we were all born yesterday. After all, why not charge and prosecute them for both fraud and terrorism?

      Seems to me the police are the real terrorists, trying to scare us into submission with their scary stories about terrorism.

  8. JMB

    ACPO plc

    ACPO have been setting police policy for years and often profiting from the policies.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Join the protest on January 23...

    The "I'm a Photographer, Not a Terrorist" campaign is having a mass protest on January 23 about this issue. 12 noon, Trafalgar Square (I know, ironic, isn't it).

    The fact is that it's not just the police who need a wakeup call, but rather the security companies too who are the ones calling the police in the first place after approaching the photographers aggressively (i.e. demanding ID and reasons to be there, which they have no authority doing, as opposed to simply asking for it politely, and possibly asking the photographer(s) to let them know ahead of time in the future).

    Society works on give-and-take, and it's only when it's the rent-a-coppers get involved do things get ugly.

    It's sad and it needs to be stopped.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      da, comrade

      I might just do that. Good call.

  10. Jemma Silver badge

    ...Valid Reason....


    1. bearded

    2. black


    4. noticably gay or lesbian

    5. transgendered

    Me, Cynical? never...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Coincidence ?

    Suddenly as this story hits the daily papers, there is footage released from a planned terror attack, filmed on a mobile phone.

    1. MadonnaC


      6. breathing

      7. moving

  12. hugo tyson

    Police push-back? (Justification on BBC just now)

    "A suspected al-Qaeda gang was caught after a man was spotted filming potential targets on a mobile phone, police have said."

    but actually they were smugglers. Nontheless, they're using this case to big up their habit of stopping people taking pictures.

  13. J 3

    unless there is a valid reason

    "people taking photographs in public should not be stopped and searched unless there is a valid reason"

    Er... that says nothing... Unless "valid reason" is defined. Being too tall or having an SLR (you know, to look like the bad guys in the movies) seem to be valid ones, it would appear from past articles here.

    As an avid amateur photographer, I'm not feeling like ever visiting the UK to see my friends there.

  14. Anonymous Coward


    "The police said the CPS had decided there was sufficient evidence to bring terrorism charges, but it was not in the public interest because they would have received the same sentence as for fraud.

    Police believe the men may have been a fundraising and research arm of an al Qaeda-linked group in North Africa. "

    So Preparing for an Act of Terrorism, Fundraising for Terrorist Organisations and Conspiracy (apologies if those are not the correct charges, but you should get the picture) would result in the same sentence as fraud? Conspiracy is a minimum 10 years with no parole. I know that because I currently have a freind rotting in Brixton High Security for another 8 years on a Conspiracy charge.

    *shakes head sadly*

  15. Martin Nicholls Silver badge


    "Still, Daily Mail in genuine story that isn't just scare and outrage mongering!!!"

    Well they're scare and outrage mongering, but it's a genuine story too.

    The best thing to do if you like to get stopped and asked what you're doing is to take photos of say.. the HSBC building from in canary wharf with a big lens. They like that.

    It's funny those canary wharf jobsworths who think they're actual police with the fake sniffer dogs think you're not supposed to photograph that and DSLR = professional photographer.

    Speaking as a borderline rank-amateur who owns a DSLR and big expensive zoom lenses, this is always good for a laugh, followed by an argument, followed by a discussion with real police. Helps to carry a laptop so you can show them

    Everywhere on the London Underground is also technically a public building, it's all taxpayer owned and run for, and you couldn't really call it private even if it wasn't because of the public access.. Taking photos down there is always good for a laugh, excitable tube employee who couldn't find a job in the real world has a go, and when you even refuse to speak to them (pretending they're not really there is hilarious), the BTP turn up the fun ensues.

    Take photos of everything and anything, points awarded for members of the intelligence services and uniformed police. Big arrows and internet postings ++.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Coppers doing a bang-up job

    Doesn't matter if it's photogs or pedestrians. Just ask Tomlinson. Oh wait, never mind - they killed him.

  17. JaitcH
    Thumb Down

    ACPO - Out of control

    Usually it is the government that sets policy and rules yet in the UK this conference of top cops has assumed this mantle.

    These 'make believe police' (PCSOs) are the dumbest of ideas for inevitably these little Hitlers always end up claiming greater powers in the belief that they will garner respect but end up like Peter Sellers portrayal of a union official in I'm All Right Jack.

    Not even in China or other authoritarian countries do the police try what the real, or play, police try on the UK.

    The complaints with the Rent-a-cop are the same, however, in these countries and they don't know how to handle youths attitude towards them, or that of tourists.

    I remember the days when a UK policeman was considered a friend, in smaller towns and villages. No more, though.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    I hate them. I hate them all!

    No I really do. I hate them and I hate those that govern them and

    I don't know about you but when was the last time you saw a bobby on the beat? I don't mean just in town centers but actually walking the beat of your street? I bet few have seen them for a LONG time. They certainly don't around my way.

    They are never there when you actually need them. They are there like a shot when it is about money raking (Read traffic offences). They also love wizzing about in cars themselves. They love the thrill of it. They are so overbearing when you encounter them and they NEVER offer you a friendly face even if YOU are the victim. In fact they seem totally nonchalent if not damned ignorant.

    The have become power crazy addicts just as bad as the crack cocaine abusers and they know full well that their peers are behind them supporting them.

    I saw a friends life damn near destroyed by the police and legal system. A perfectly innocent man reduced to crying in a court of our supposed laws.

    Never have I seen someone so harrased simply because of the colour of is skin I am sure of it.

    He was telling me about a recent incident in which he got a call on his mobile phone whilst in his car that cut off straight away. He uses a bluetooth headset and whilst I don't agree with using mobile phones even when using bluetooth (it's another distraction) he reached into his pocket to briefly look at it to see who had called. He was not drving but stopped at a red light. But he was pulled over by an officer because of supposedly using his mobile in the car.

    Not only did he get a ticket. Not only did he get 3 points on his license. He also had to produce EVEN though he showed the officer his documents THERE AND THEN!

    But here is the kicker. He tried to produce at his local police station which ONLY opens at certain times of the day on certain days. He was unable to even get in! Even some other officer turned up and could not get in!

    Eventually he went to another station and there was a sign that said to use the phone to call an officer out to the desk.

    There was no phone! He stood there for 30 minutes until another officer came in and he asked for them to to ask for someone to attend the desk. Then waited a further 15 minutes before anyone attended.

    The station had moved from a little further out of the town center right into the town center and there was only pay parking! So he had ot pay to attend this new crappy station.

    The police force in this country is a joke. The government are corrupt. The local authorities are clowns.

    I wish I could afford to leave it for good!

  19. Neal 5

    Has any one actually read the article?

    Now, I'm as guilty as anyone for jumping on "x" bandwagon, as seem to be the case with most of the commentards so far with this story. And as so many of you have rightly pointed out, that there are failings that need to be rectified within the UK's policing at the moment.

    A fact not un-acknowledged by the ACPO, as this story shows.

    At what point then, if this isn't good enough, are we actually going to begin to have a dialogue with our Police Forces.?

    Just how many steps need to be taken, for the whole thing to turn full circle and responsibility for our safety becomes also our concern, at what point does total freedom with the right to do exactly as you wish become a major problem for someone else? Where is the balance?

  20. bexley


    whilst i could not agree more that the harassment of tourists in the name of fighting terror is plain stupid - i'll just add that we're playing right into the hands of so called terrorists by allowing our civil liberties to be taken from us - I do enjoy watching the paparazzi be harrassed by the plod.

    I work for a high profile media organization that hs daily visits from celebrities, even the employee's are harassed by these paparazzi people. They spend all day long loitering outside the entrance and i have to say that these are not nice people.

    So it always brings a smile o my face watching them in turn be harassed and moved on.

    My own opinion of the Police force is that i prefer to stay out of their way after being bundled into the back of a police van one night with several foaming at the mouth drunk skinheads trying to kil each other / escape.

    I was just walking home from work late at night and came out of an alleyway straight into a scene where several police officers were in the process of arresting said drunk people, it was cold so i had my jacket hood up, a crazed, adrenalin charged young police woman spun around to face me, grabbed my arm and put me in some kind of bloody painfull wrist lock whilst shouting at me to shut up or else. I was plasti cuffed and hurled into the back of a van. It was bloody terrifying.

    Thankfully a sane police man recognised that i was not involved and they said, sorry about that and let me go.

    SO, i tend to avoid the Police in the hope that if i leave them alone, they will leave me alone.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother


    This is the first ive heard of these and I can't get "brown shirts" out of my head.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Every Police Force in the UK is a privately owned business.

    Every Police Force in the UK is a privately owned business.

    Visit: for proof.

    You will also find every Court in the UK on their.

    All privately owned businesses, trading on the international markets, making money for their share holders and owners. Nice.

  23. Bob H


    An article about Police not being able to command authority also had an interesting gem in it:

    # ‘Officers made attempts to talk to the women about their behaviour and to stop them taking photographs for security reasons – these were not heeded or firmly enforced,’ he admitted. #

    Security reasons? Huh?

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    1 year for fraud rather than terrorism?????

    I can imagine the CPS conversation:

    "its a terror plot Dave, good publicity, lets the public know we are on the case and all this terrorism malarky is real, he'll get ten years"

    "nah, do him for fraud, less paperwork"

    As the case is closed and they are prepared to release the information it would be worth a FOI request for the charging decision to see if they are telling the truth!

    Paris - makes odd decisions as well

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Well, they just screwed up again: italian student

    Read and boggle: I would really, really like to see a formal ID for an arts student. There are so many things wrong with this arrest I don't quite know where to begin, and I suspect this will lead to compensation. It should - out of these guy's pay.

    There should have been at least one functional braincell between all involved..

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I liked the "iconic buildings" line

    How do they recruit PCSOs? Give them an IQ test and if they score more than 30 hit them in the head with a cricket bat a few times until they score just right?

    Iconic buildings may be terrorist targets (why 9/11 hit the WTC and not Mable Goober's small townhouse in upstate New York) but they are also things people travelling to the area want to see. Not really that difficult a concept is it?

  27. Stewart Haywood

    Why is it......

    that anytime plod appears on one of these videos he chewing the cud?

    Maybe they have to be able to chew gum and walk at the same time

    during training.

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      No possible way

      "Maybe they have to be able to chew gum and walk at the same time during training."

      If that was the case, these clowns wouldn't have passed. I suspect this will blow up nicely today, at best it'll turn into a diplomatic incident.. Not that it will change anything, anyone WITH functional braincells would avoid any association with those goons.

  28. Samuel Walker

    I'm just amazed

    That the Daily Fail printed something useful and correct for a change - specifically your rights during a s44 stop.

    Could it perhaps be improving? Or is this just a one-off occurrence?

    1. John Square

      It's the old...

      ... "infinite number of monkeys" thing.

      Nothing to worry about.

  29. bexley

    daily mail

    nah, just a one off

    *special*constables, much like *special* school

  30. Goth Hobbit

    Too little, too late ...maybe.

    As a dedicated amateur photographer on the US side of the pond, I've been keeping a close eye on these types of stories for quite a while now, and I keep hoping that at some point, a critical mass of public outrage will be achieved. It hasn't happened as of yet, but I keep hoping.

    I haven't been hassled by the police for having a camera glued to my face as of yet, but I'm not so naive as to think that it couldn't happen. Like the Italian student in the YouTube video, I spend a lot of my memory card space on architecture -- old buildings are one of my particular passions, and I have scads of photos of the embellishments that used to be commonplace motifs. I'm not really sure how I'd go about explaining to some unimaginative flatfoot that my interest lies in the early-1900s sculptural element ten stories overhead, if that same badge-wearer were convinced that I had to have some motivation beyond documentation.

    I'm reminded of the very different experience that I had about six years back in Toronto: I was taking photos downtown, and focusing on the old courthouse. This was only two years post 9/11, and I could understand a certain amount of touchiness. Not only was the police officer with whom I spoke completely understanding (I had flagged him down just to make certain that there wouldn't be a problem), when I went into the Hudson's Bay Building across the street to ask if there was a publicly-accessible area that had a better view of the gargoyles on the bell tower, they directed me to the company lunchroom. After that, the security desk called the maintenance staff, and got them to unlock an empty office suite that had a nose-to-nose view of the tower. They even invited me back next morning, if I wanted to take more shots with better light. I was so grateful for the assistance, I sent an 8x10 print to the management office as a thank-you.

    Needless to say, this hasn't been the experience of many photographers, and the fact that someone at the Met is just now getting around to acknowledging that harassment of people with cameras is causing a great deal of ill-will ...well, it has a flavor of desperation. If this memo is supposed to turn the tide of public opinion, Commissioner Yates might do well to take a page from history, and look at how well Canute's ordering the sea to stop washing up on the shore worked out. (Yes, I'm well aware that it was done facetiously as an object lesson to his courtiers; even so.)

    Pirate, because when cameras are outlawed, only outlaws will have cameras.


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