Did Police Officers Stop Terror Attack?

Dean Nicholas
By Dean Nicholas Last edited 109 months ago
Did Police Officers Stop Terror Attack?

Photo / Mario Mitsis
Police have released an image which they say illustrates how two officers prevented a terror attack in London.

The CCTV image shows uniformed officers spotting a man filming crowd scenes on his mobile phone at Liverpool Street station last year. When questioned by the police, the individual became uncooperative and acted suspiciously, and refused demands that his phone be turned over for inspection. An Algerian national, he was questioned under immigration laws and later arrested under the Terrorism Act. His phone was found to contain lengthy clips of other transport hubs including Camden Town and Oxford Circus, and last year he was jailed — though for offences related to fraud, rather than terror. Police say that the conviction was all down to the original arrest, which only came about because the officers had been vigiliant when seeing the offender with his camera out.

And why should they need to stress this point? Well, last week came the latest exchange of hostilites across the thin blue line that separates the police and the proles. Grant Smith, an architectural photographer, was taking some images of the Gherkin, when he was confronted by private security, who demanded he show his images. When he protested, a PCSO got involved, and three police cars soon drew up and searched him under the notorious Section 44. On Saturday, the Guardian reported how one of their snappers got the same response (admittedly, in an attempt to provoke such a reaction). In releasing this image of the Algerian man being stopped, the anti-terror squad are making a belated, and somewhat clumsy, attempt to demonstrate that suspicion of camera-wielding invidivuals can save lives.

The real lesson, though, is that you can have all the "I'm a photographer" flash-mobs you like, but police will continue to treat anybody with a camera as guilty until proven innocent.

Last Updated 15 December 2009