Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has responded to the growing anecdotal evidence of overzealous police and security officers harassing UK photographers with a letter to the National Union of Journalists, quoted by the British Journal of Photography:
"First of all, may I take this opportunity to state that the Government greatly values the importance of the freedom of the press, and as such there is no legal restriction on photography in public places... Also, as you will be aware, there is no presumption of privacy for individuals in a public place."
Right. 'No legal restriction on photography in public places, no presumption of privacy for individuals in a public place.' The end. Regards, the Government.
But the Home Secretary keeps writing. Something definitive, no doubt. Something decisive.
"Decisions may be made locally to restrict or monitor photography in reasonable circumstances. That is an operational decision for the officers involved based on the individual circumstances of each situation."
Hang on, what? Even though there are no legal grounds for restricting photographers, the Home Secretary says it's okay for police officers to do exactly that. That's the kind of thinking that says it's okay to advertise unlimited downloads -- and.
"It is for the local Chief Constable to decide," continues Ms Smith, "how his or her Officers and employees should best balance the rights to freedom of the press, freedom of expression and the need for public protection."
Wait, what?! The Home Secretary, an elected official, is washing her hands of the issue and passing the buck to an unelected officer whose job is administering, not interpreting? And exactly how does 'no legal restriction' even need interpretation?
This is wrong on so many levels: post-9/11 Al-Qaeda's-behind-you climate of fear, implied criminalisation of the populace, nebulous boundaries to police powers, and NewSpeak Britain. Photography is not a crime!