Photographers' rights spelt out to security staff

Precisely when - if at all - nightclub doormen are permitted to stop the paparazzi and other freelance photographers from shooting in public has been clarified, in government-backed guidance to the security industry.

In collaboration with the Home Office, BSIA, the body for personnel guarding, crowd management, close protection and all other security staff, unveiled a 10-point guidance note.

Reproduced in bullet format, below, BSIA’s list of “key” actions and rights makes clear that security guards should approach a person to ask why they are taking pictures “only” when that’s person’s behaviour is “suspicious”.

Even then, if a person with a camera is behaving suspiciously in the eyes of a public or private sector security guard, “it is important that the suspicions are resolved “through reporting the incident to the police”.

So-called “polite questioning” of the photographer is equally permissible, the note adds, though umbrage from the camera-owner not taking kindly to the inquisition was hinted not to be anything out of the ordinary.

“Even when politely seeking information from members of the public, this can be regarded as unwarranted intrusion,” security personnel are told in an introduction to the note.

“The police have a number of powers relevant to the use of photography for terrorist purposes, however these cannot be used to stop people legitimately taking photographs.

“It is not an offence for a member of the public or journalist to take photographs/film of a public building. They do not need a permit to photograph or film in a public place, and the police have no power to stop the photographing or filming of incidents or police personnel.”

The issuing of the guidance follows the government’s counter-terrorism review, conclusions from which were reported earlier this year, which highlighted concerns about “security guards attempting to take action against photographers”.

Key guidance for security personnel

(Source: British Security Industry Association)

The vast majority of individuals taking photographs are doing so for entirely innocent purposes, and the fact that an individual is taking a photograph does not in itself indicate hostile reconnaissance or other suspicious behaviour.

• The size and type of cameras are not, in themselves, indications of suspicious behaviour. Large cameras, lenses and tripods should therefore not be viewed as being more suspicious than other types of equipment.

• If an individual is in a public place photographing or filming a private building, security guards have no right to prevent the individual from taking photographs.

• If an individual is on private property, s/he may not take photographs if such activity is expressly prohibited or requires a permit which has not been sought or granted. In this instance, a security guard may inform the individual of the restrictions and politely request that s/he ceases to take photographs or film. The security guard could request that the individual leave the premises and could use reasonable force if necessary to effect this.

• All approaches to members of the public should be made in a courteous manner.

• If an individual is behaving in a manner which a security guard believes to be suspicious, it is important that the suspicions are resolved either through reporting the incident to the police or through polite questioning of the individual.

• Security guards cannot delete images or seize cameras, nor can they obstruct individuals from taking photographs.

• Members of the public and the media do not need a permit to film or photograph in public places. This includes where an individual is in a public place but taking a photograph or film of a private building.

• On private land, the public may take photographs unless this activity is expressly prohibited by the landlord or a permit is required and has not been sought.

• Security guards should be mindful of the impact their actions have on members of the public. They should avoid behaving in a manner that individuals may find intimidating or aggressive, or interfering with individuals’ activities without adequate reason to do so.


6th December 2011

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