This example of the Suspiciously timed Climate of Fear propaganda campaign by the Police in the run up to the Counter-Terrorism Bill debates is actually being displayed in a window of the Metropolitan Police Service headquarters complex at New Scotland Yard, which backs onto Victoria Street. The angle of the photo catches a reflection of the Labour Party headquarters, casting its malign influence, on this stupid political Climate of Fear propaganda against innocent photographers,and mobile phone users.
39 Victoria Street, London, houses the Labour Party headquarters offices, but the building also houses offices of one of Aegis Defence Services Ltd, one of the largest UK Private Military Contractor companies supplying mercenaries (mostly intelligence analysts rather than bodyguards) to the Coalition Forces in Iraq.
Close nearby at 25 Victoria Street, above the Starbucks cafe (hidden behind the white coach in this photo), on the corner of Victoria Street and Abbey Orchard Street, towards Parliament Square, are the offices of the Conservative Party. [UPDATE - thanks to Sepoy Agent in the comments below - this is the former location, it has now moved to the 3rd floor of 30 Millbank, and part of the 5th floor of the neighbouring Millbank Tower (20 - 24 Millbank). The Labour Party used to occupy a couple of floors on the south side of the complex, and used the ground floor lecture theatre for election campaign press conferences, but did not occupy the 33 story tower itself, which has excellent panoramic views over London. Walking from there to the Houses of Parliament involves passing the Security Service MI5 headquarters at Thames House at 11 - 12 Millbank, and 4 Millbank, where the BBC and other TV news and political reports are produced]
Pedestrians and vehicles passing through this area, are monitored by countless inhuman CCTV camera systems, or by faceless operators in CCTV control rooms.
Keen photographer and back bench Labour MP Austin Mitchell has attracted the signatures of 190 other Members of Parliament for his Early Day Motion, regarding the illegal threats and harassment by officious police officers, police community support officers, council wardens and private sector security guards etc., who are abusing the freedoms and rights of ordinary innocent members of the public who take photographs in public places:
PHOTOGRAPHY IN PUBLIC AREAS
That this House is concerned to encourage the spread and enjoyment of photography as the most genuine and accessible people's art; deplores the apparent increase in the number of reported incidents in which the police, police community support officers (PCSOs) or wardens attempt to stop street photography and order the deletion of photographs or the confiscation of cards, cameras or film on various specious ground such as claims that some public buildings are strategic or sensitive, that children and adults can only be photographed with their written permission, that photographs of police and PCSOs are illegal, or that photographs may be used by terrorists; points out that photography in public places and streets is not only enjoyable but perfectly legal; regrets all such efforts to stop, discourage or inhibit amateur photographers taking pictures in public places, many of which are in any case festooned with closed circuit television cameras; and urges the Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers to agree on a photography code for the information of officers on the ground, setting out the public's right to photograph public places thus allowing photographers to enjoy their hobby without officious interference or unjustified suspicion.
The BBC Radio 4 IPM programme covered this topic in April, see thei blog entry You've Been Framed. This is still relevant today, as there still has not been any action from the Government or the Police.
Police Community Support Officers and the general public seem to be hazy on what powers PCSOs actually have, compared with full Police Constables in Uniform, especially under the controversial Terrorism Act 2000.
PCSOs cannot conduct Terrorism Act 2000 Section 44 Stops and Searches on their own, without the presence and supervision of a real Police Constable in Uniform (plain clothes police cannot do this either).
Any "no reasonable suspicion", supposedly "random" Section 44 stops and searches can only be of your outer clothing and any bags etc. you are carrying.
Neither PCSOs nor real Police Constables can demand your Name and Address, or question you about anything else, under a Section 44 Stop and Search, even though, certainly in London, they try to do so.
PCSOs can ask you for your Name and Address if they reasonably suspect that you are engaged in "anti-social behavior" e.g. drinking alcohol in an area forbidden by local byelaw, or if you are underage. Real Police Constables also have such powers, for a much wider range of offences, but again, "reasonable suspicion" or an actual arrest is required.
See the Home Office's official List of Powers of Police Community Support Officers (.pdf)
The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Schedule 17 repealed the power of arrest under the Official Secrets Act 1911 section 6, which covers photography of Prohibited Places such as military bases, dockyards, munitions works, minefields, and Government buildings ( i.e. the pre-World War1 list) and telephone exchanges and licensed nuclear sites 9added more recently by statute) etc. - see Statutory Instrument 2005 No. 3495 (C. 146) - The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (Commencement No. 4 and Transitory Provision) Order 2005
Any other place could, in theory, be made into a Prohibited Place, by Order of a Secretary of State, but, of, course, any such current Orders, if they exist, are being kept secret by the Home Office.
You can be arrested for criminal trespass within the boundaries of these sites which have been Designated by Order, Protected Sites under SOCPA section 128. These section 128 Protected Sites (which were, for a while, called Designated Sites) now include the Ministry of Defence military bases and buildings. nuclear industry sites, Royal residences, intelligence agency buildings, the Houses of Parliament, MPs offices, and the Prime Minister's residences and offices,
Most Government buildings and telephone exchanges and private sector defence contractors etc. are not Designated as Protected Sites under SOCPA section 128.
If your permission to enter such Protected Sites includes a restriction on photography, then you become liable for arrest if you break that condition. The number of such SOCPA section 128 Protected Sites is far fewer than what was covered under the Official Secrets Act 1911.
This does not cover photography of the exteriors of such places, from outside of their section 128 Designated boundaries.
Airports and Ports and Railways also have restricted areas e.g. "airside" or on the railway tracks, where members of the public are not allowed to trespass without permission, for obvious safety reasons. Again, if you are given permission to visit these, on condition of no photography, then it becomes a criminal offence to break that photographic ban.
The London Underground has byelaws against the use of flash photography, dating back to the times when such photography required the burning of semi-explosive magnesium flash powder.
In London there are a couple of Commercial photography monopoly zones, under the control of the Greater London Authority and the Mayor of London, which charge large fees (£200 +VAT per hour) for permission to film i.e. Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square - non-commercial amateur tourist photography and filming is ok,
There is no United Kingdom "privacy" statute law, and no restriction on photographing people (even Police Officers or Politicians) in public at all, except for the Sexual Offences Act 2003 section 67 Voyeurism and section 68 Voyeurism: Interpretationbut this only applies to "a place which, in the circumstances, would reasonably be expected to provide privacy," e.g. toilets, bathrooms, changing rooms and bedrooms.
The Sexual Offences Act 2003 section 45 Indecent photographs of persons aged 16 or 17 amended the Protection of Children Act 1978, and applies to indecent photographs of Children which includes anyone under the age of Eighteen (not. Sixteen, the age of consent or marriage), whether these are in public or in private.
This also applies to all the new "see through your children's clothes" technologies such as Passive (or Active) Millimetre Wave imaging scanners, TeraHertz imaging scanners and low level backscatter X-ray scanners, all of which could be abused, in secret, for "child porn" purposes, and which which are being deployed in Airports and other public places e.g. Canary Wharf in London Docklands..
The catch all Terrorism Act 2000 section 58 collection of information, which is "of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism", and it does cover "photographs", but is also has a "reasonable excuse" defence.
Neither the Police nor PCSOs nor any private security guards, have any legal power at all to confiscate your camera equipment, film, digital storage media etc. in the street or public place, unless you are actually being arrested.
Even if you have been arrested, there are no powers whatsoever for a Policeman to erase, or to force you to erase film or digital storage media, and they might be committing an offence in doing so e.g. destruction of evidence or criminal damage.
A Court can, eventually, order the destruction of photographs, but that sort of situation does not apply on the street. It is a criminal offence to take photos inside a Law Court, of the defendants, judges, lawyers or witnesses (hence all the nonsense with "artists impressions" which appear in the mainstream media during high profile cases).