Section 76 of the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 - introduced a few weeks back - is very, very interesting. Essentially, it allows anyone taking pictures of police officers (or members of the armed forces) to be arrested if there is some any kind of possibility that the photographs will be used in the preparation of an act of terrorism.
Obviously, this causes issues with what police officers now have the power to do. So I’ve decided that it’s probably worth finding out what the people on the ground actually think, in the ineffectual, time-consuming way that only a student can: asking them.
So today, I decided to take the first step. Knowing that this could, in fact, be totally painful and I could be arrested on the spot for anything (wasting police time?), I was pleasantly surprised. The policewoman I spoke to was very well-informed about the new law, and her point of view (from what I could tell with two minutes of talking to her) was reassuring. I asked her whether she’d stop a journalist taking photos, to which her reply was an instantaneous “no, because they have the right to.”
Yes, she is only one person; there are well over 31,000 police constables in London1 and countless more across the UK. Yes, it clearly would’ve been better if the law hadn’t come about to start with. And yes, Gordon Brown’s response as quoted in the fourth paragraph of the appropriate Wikipedia section does make me want to bang my head against the wall and scream. But I’m still reserving judgement for now; it doesn’t seem to be nearly as bad as it could be.
- New campaign warns criminals that police numbers are rising from london.gov.uk, March 2003 and Metropolitan Police Service from Wikipedia, March 2009