can hardly believe it

To: Bill Stent <>
Subject: can hardly believe it
From: Scot Mcphee <>
Date: Tue, 30 Mar 2010 09:40:32 +1000
On 30 March 2010 07:57, Bill Stent <> wrote:
> The cynic me might say that if you did adopt this attitude with the police
> and took photographs of the individuals involved you may find your car was a
> lot less roadworthy than you may have at first thought.

That is indeed true, in practical terms. However it's still an
arrogant exercise in the abuse of police power - and one that's not
uncommon or unusual either. There has been at least one incident in
recent years where a member of the public photographed police
performing what the person thought an illegal or abusive harassment of
other individuals, only to have the police turn on the member of the
public and demand the camera be handed over, saying that 'terrorism
laws' prevent the photographing of police. But this is absolutely
arrant nonsense as it does no such thing. Lucky the member of the
public was apparently a Q.C.

Remember police are in uniform, and in public, doing a job that you as
a taxpayer pay them to do and as a citizen have a right to expect to
be done properly and within the law. You have a right to photograph
them -- indeed there is a public interest in you doing so -- and it's
only circumscribed by the extent of their abuse of power.

They also have to identify themselves (by their police number) to you
and show you ID.

> The fact is, that while you may have the right to be on public land, in this
> post 9-11 world you don't have the right to take photographs of anything you
> want to photograph.  Police are entitled to stop and if necessary detain you
> if they can show (even afterwards) they reasonably considered you may have
> been photographing something you shouldn't have been.

That may be true if you are near a Navy or Air Force base or some
other type of military installation but it isn't true of a bit of
farmland or some part of a forest or wetland or what have you. What
possible public interest or security concerns do the police have in
protecting wild birds, trees or grass from being photographed? It's a
kind of KGB attitude in which all people everywhere are suspects in a
crime they haven't yet committed.

Another thing, those tabloid TV programs that harass members of the
public (alleged dodgy builders and so forth) in the public streets and
even trespass on private property and I never hear of policemen
arresting them. And actually, as long as they stay on the public land
they can generally film you on your property legally. There's no
special law for them that doesn't also apply to us. Sure I agree you
shouldn't push it with the fuzz especially if you're on your own but
it does pay to know your rights, at least.

While I am all for common courtesy to land owners when birding I am
certainly not for common courtesy to coppers abusing their power
except as a temporary tactic to avoid arrest.

> Bird watchers might have got a poor deal, but some people's hobby is
> photographing aeroplanes, and in particular military ones.  Imagine the
> problems they have!

Quite a lot of problems, indeed. Even trainspotters, with their
obsession about timetables and locomotive numbers, get into trouble
nowadays as well.

On the other hand years ago in the Cold War some ham radio guys traced
the 'Lincolnshire Poacher' numbers station transmission site to an RAF
base in Cyprus. Numbers stations are so black that the government
pretty much denies they ever existed to this day despite their
frequent and illegal interference with the civilian radio spectrum and
proven association to military sites! No-one was arrested although
nowadays I suspect you'd probably wake up in a shipping container in
the corner of Bagram air base.


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