U.K. Police Accused of Abusing Their Stop and Search Powers

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More than 100 Section 44 stop and search areas exist in London alone

In the United Kingdom, police are using their power to “stop and search” on innocent photographers taking pictures of tourist attractions and in one case, even a chip shop. Section 44 authorization zones are areas where police can stop and search anyone without a reason. These zones were created to allow police to help fight terrorism. This law also allows senior officers to designate entire areas as stop and search areas. However, just because someone is taking a photo doesn’t mean that they should be detained.

The people being stopped are usually just ordinary folks taking leisure photographs or even professional photos. Some of the people that have been stopped include a BBC journalist that was taking photos of St. Paul’s Cathedral, and a man taking a picture of Christmas lights on his way to work (who consequentially had to give his name and address to the police). In another scenario, one amateur photographer was arrested simply for taking a photo of a chip shop.

“Why is the act of taking a picture deemed by the state to be so potentially threatening? Photography is not a crime but it is being routinely criminalized… Anti-terrorism legislation talks about creating a hostile environment for terrorists to operate but the reality is that it is creating a hostile environment for public photography. That has an incredibly detrimental effect on freedom of speech… There is no power under Section 44 to stop people taking photographs and we are very clear about getting that message out to forces” says MarcVallee, a photojournalist who has set up a campaign group with more than 4,000 supporters called ‘I’m a photographer, not a terrorist’.

Earlier this year Britain’s Conservative Party said they would scrap stop and search powers, with David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party, arguing that it had been used on 120,000 people in the last year, but only led to an arrest on one per cent of cases.

(Via the Telegraph UK)

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