In 2009, Gemma Atkinson filmed the police searching her boyfriend on a mobile phone. The police officers claimed that filming them was illegal under counter-terrorism law and demanded she hand over the phone. She refused, was detained for 25 minutes and handcuffed, while they tried to get the phone out of her pocket. In the end, both she and her boyfriend were released.
Atkinson made an immediate complaint, taking her story and the footage above to the Guardian. She took her case to the High Court to get a judicial review of the Metropolitan Police guidelines, which should clearly state that the Terrorism Act only applies where “the images are considered ‘likely to be useful’ to a terrorist.” The Met changed the language to avoid a judicial review.
Atkinson then made a complaint against the specific officers involved. But the IPCC exonerated them, despite their conflicting accounts, saying they weren’t aware of the law! The IPCC awarded Atkinson compensation, which she used to make an animated film highlighting the right to photograph the police while carrying out their duties.
In fact, they (and us) are being filmed all the time – by CCTV cameras – but the police “own” this footage in the sense that it’s rarely available to the public. Citizen photographers are essential to monitor police activities, to make sure they’re serving the public and not abusing their own positions of trust.
After all, if you’ve done nothing wrong, then there’s nothing to fear.
Below is the link to Gemma Atkinson’s film, with a Guardian comments section, and here’s the press pack. If this bothers you as much as it does me, please consider reblogging or publicising the film. There’s a copy inside the press pack. Thank you.