Those of us with an interest in photography may remember a sudden increase in photographers being stopped and searched under section 44 of the Anti-Terrorism Act. In December 2009, an Italian student filming in central London was stopped, arrested and fined after Police Community Support Officers declined to accept that she was a legitimate tourist and pressure group photographernotaterrorist.org have organised events and flash mobs to publicise the apparent breach of civil liberties.
The heavy-handed enforcement of section 44 has been much-criticised and in January this year the European Court of Human Rights ruled against the arbitrary use of stop and search without suspicion. The police document, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, seems to highlight the use of private security guards as just another in the long line of attempts by the previous government to pass counter-terrorism off onto the untrained public.
Vigilance in itself isn't necessarily a bad thing, but when a police advisory document fails to even mention photographers' legal rights at the same time as labelling taking pictures on a mobile phone or even making sketches as 'suspicious behaviour' - and this in a city whose architecture and art attract millions of tourists, not to mention the local photographers with an eye for the wonderful images in the Londonist Flickr pool, something is very wrong. Let's hope that the promising start made by the new coalition government in rolling back anti-civil liberties policies continues.