Restricting photography in public places is now a legitimate action that local police forces are permitted to take.
In a reported letter to the National Union of Journalists, Jacqui Smith said chief constables can “monitor or restrict” public photography in some circumstances.
Although restrictions are not enshrined in law, the home secretary said local police officers can take an “operational decision” based on the specifics of each situation.
In the letter, seen by the British Journal of Photography, she reminded that, despite legal wrangling, there is no presumption of privacy for individuals in a public place.
However, a Home Office spokesman has told Freelance UK that decisions may be made at a local level to restrict photography in public, such as to protect children.
“It is for the chief constable to ensure that officers and police community support officers are acting appropriately with regards to photography in public places,” he said.
“Decisions may be made locally to restrict photography, for example to protect children. Any questions on such local decisions should also be addressed to the force concerned.”
The NUJ is reportedly expected to meet with MP Tony McNulty – the Minister of State for Security, Counter-terrorism, Crime and Policing - to discuss the issue and its impact on photojournalists.