29 September 2009

Thanks for Keeping us in the Picture

Although e-petitions don't often accomplish much (the apology for Alan Turing being a notable exception), they do have the virtue of forcing the UK government to say something. In response to this:

“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to remove new restrictions on photography in public places.”

we got this:

It is a statutory defence for a person to prove that they had a reasonable excuse for eliciting, publishing or communicating the relevant information. Legitimate journalistic activity (such as covering a demonstration for a newspaper) is likely to constitute such an excuse. Similarly, an innocent tourist or other sight-seer taking a photograph of a police officer is likely to have a reasonable excuse.

Since most people can't *prove* they had reasonable excuse for taking a photo - is "because it was a nice shot" *reasonable*? And how do you *prove* it was reasonable at the time? - this very high legal bar obviously implies that non-journalistic Brits had better not take any snaps of Plod because, otherwise, you're nicked.

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Terence Eden said...

To be fair, it also says "Similarly, an innocent tourist or other sight-seer taking a photograph of a police officer is likely to have a reasonable excuse."

Glyn Moody said...

@Terence: are you *sure* you are innocent? If you are, you wouldn't mind being strip-searched and having a DNA swab taken, would you? - because you clearly have nothing to hide....

Anonymous said...

A reasonable excuse for taking a photograph must always be "because I felt like it".

Freedom of speech does not exist if it
requires justification to be used.

Glyn Moody said...

You're absolutely right, of course. Sadly, this country has lost sight of that thanks to all kinds of moral (and non-moral) panics.

Richard said...

Apparently the innocent tourist excuse doesn't work:


Or the I'm an artist excuse:

Or documenting an event:

Glyn Moody said...

@Richard: oh...so Downing Street lied...again? (great links - thanks)

Rob Weir said...

The point of having rights is for cases where the government is not acting reasonably, such as when in the midst of a security hysteria. Having rights only when the government is acting reasonably is like having an umbrella that only works on sunny days.