On the 16th February the British Government introduced Anti Terror legislation allowing Police Officers to arrest anyone photographing a Policeman on the grounds that the pictures maybe useful to someone preparing a terror attack. On the 16th February hundreds of photographers protested outside Scotland Yard to draw attention to the fact that this brought under immediate suspicion anyone using a camera in a public place. But also the fact that the Police needed to be photographed at public events in order for them to be held to account for their actions.
It has taken just 9 weeks for a perfect example to arise, the death of Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protests in London and the unacceptable use of violence by the Police that immediately preceded his death would have gone completely un-reported by the Metropolitan Police were it not for the video footage made by a passer by. It is enormously ironic that the passer by, a New York fund manager who gave his footage to the Guardian Newspaper, risked arrest under the new Anti Terror legislation just for making that footage that included Police Officers. That irony is compounded by the appeal made by Ms Deborah Glass of the Independent Police Complaints Commission who are investigating the Police involvement in the death for ‘more people to submit any other video footage of the incident’. I have to ask myself if I had footage of Police Officers at this incident, would I risk arrest under the new anti terror legislation of the 16th February to come forward and provide my pictures as evidence?
This single incident highlights in an exemplary fashion the ridiculous nature of the new legislation and the loss of public support for the Police it engenders. The Government can’t have it both ways, either we can be the ears and eyes of the Police or we are constantly suspected of ‘hostile reconnaissance’ simply for using a camera…but not both.
My Sympathies to the Family of Ian Tomlinson.
Update: Good relevant article in the Guardian