Man questioned under terrorism law after taking picture of police car in park

Malcolm Sleath on the footpath he says was being driven on by Parks Police

Malcolm Sleath on the footpath he says was being driven on by Parks Police

First published in News by

A MAN has been questioned by police under anti-terrorism laws after taking a picture of a police car in a park.

Malcolm Sleath said he was ordered to stop taking photographs by a parks police community support officer (PCSO) in Enfield Town Park, yesterday afternoon.

Mr Sleath claimed the car was being driven on the footpath, causing pedestrians to get out of the way and also caused damage to the grass.

As the acting chairman of the Friends of Town Park, Mr Sleath said he took the picture to back up anecdotal evidence that cars were damaging the park at future meetings with the parks police sergeant.

But the officers in the car were not happy. Mr Sleath said a PCSO told him that under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 he was not allowed to take photographs of police officers and vehicles.

He maintained the officers were legitimately driving around the park at a slow speed to look for evidence of drugs misuse in the undergrowth.

Mr Sleath was detained while the PCSO checked his identity using his driver's licence and filled out a form.

He said: "That's the sort of reaction you get when you're living in a police state. It was completely bogus.

"My opinion was that he was embarrassed to be photographed where he shouldn't have been. Officers have been told not to drive in the park.

"I was aware of the law but the law does not say you can't take photographs of the police.

"Under the circumstances I took the decision to take the picture because it was in the public interest and there was no question that they would be engaged in any anti-terrorist activity of any kind."

Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 allows the police to stop and search anyone they suspect is a terrorist threat.

The newer Section 76 of the Counter Terrorism Act 2008 aims to prevent people gathering information, including photographs, of the police or armed forces which could be used by terrorists.

Anyone found guilty could be sentenced to up to ten years in prison, and given a fine.

Both have caused concern among civil libertarians, who are concerned the police will view the law as an extention of police power and journalists, who claim the police will use the law to stop them taking lawful but newsworthy photographs.

Around 300 photographers descended on Scotland Yard in February to take pictures in protest.

The National Union of Journalists and the British Press Photographers' Association have both warned Section 76 would extend powers that are already being used to harass photographers and would threaten press freedom.

The Enfield Independent is currently awaiting comment from the police.

Comments (1)

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10:58pm Mon 20 Apr 09

Bob X says...

Section 76 only applies to pictures of constables, not PCSOs. The officer should be sacked, and the law is ridiculous anyway.
Section 76 only applies to pictures of constables, not PCSOs. The officer should be sacked, and the law is ridiculous anyway. Bob X
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