"Security guards have no right to prevent street photography," says Home Office

Street Photography Rights

The Home Office and the British Security Industry Association have published a new set of guidelines for security guards confirming that photography in public places is legal and cannot be restricted

Author: Olivier Laurent

More than a year after Home Secretary Theresa May launched a review of the UK's counter-terrorims and security powers, a new set of guidelines have been published for security guards, who, in an increasing number of cases, have been accused of preventing professional photographers from working in public places.

May's review, whose findings were unveiled in January 2011, called for the "guidance provided to private security guards be reevaluated to ensure that it sufficiently reflects the right of the public to take photographs."

The new guidelines are the results of meetings between representatives of the UK's photographic industry and of the Home Office. They were first revealed, earlier today, by Amateur Photographer magazine, who also participated in the meetings.

The guidelines reaffirm that "the fact that an individual is taking a photograph does not in itself indicate hostile reconnaissance or other suspicious behaviour." The Home Office adds that "the size and type of cameras are not, in themselves, indications of suspicious behaviour. Large cameras, lenses and tripods should therefore not be viewed as being more suspicious than other types of equipment."

More importantly, the guidelines say that "if an individual is in a public place photographing or filming a private building, security guards have no right to prevent the individual from taking photographs," and that "security guards cannot delete images or seize cameras, nor can they obstruct individuals from taking photographs."

Security guards are advised that, if they have suspicions that an individual in involved in hostile reconnaissance, "all approaches should be made in a courteous manner."

Earlier this year, five photographers embarked on a project to show how security guards were restricting street photography in public places. The resulting documentary, Stand Your Ground, will be shown at BJP's Vision event on Saturday 19 November.

The new Home Office guidelines end with a reminder of police powers, which reads: "The police have a number of powers relevant to the use of photography for terrorist purposes, however these cannot be used to stop people legitimately taking photographs. It is not an offence for a member of the public or journalist to take photographs/film of a public building. They do not need a permit to photograph or film in a public place, and the police have no power to stop the photographing or filming of incidents or police personnel."

The guidelines have now been distributed to members of the BSIA's Security Guarding, Police and Public Services, Leisure Industry, Crowd Management, Close Protection and Security Consultancies sections, and the Training Providers group.

To read and print the guidelines, visit the British Security Industry Association's website [PDF].

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