Stopped by police for taking a photograph in a public place

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Rhys, Aug 19, 2011.

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  1. Rhys

    Rhys Guest

    Sep 4, 2010
    I’ve just had one of the most disturbing and depressing experiences of my life this lunch time. I often work into the city centre to eat my lunch in an area of Sheffield called the Peace Gardens. This week there has been a fair taking place there, and as the weather was due to be nice, I decided to take my G2 and 20mm and take a couple of photos. I sat for half an hour in the centre of the fair eating my food with my camera next to me and then on the way back to work I went to a point overlooking the fair and took a couple of photos across the site. There were quite a few people also watching the fair from the same vantage point that I used.

    I turned to walk to walk back to work and within about 20 paces two policemen on bicycles and a council official blocked my way and, to my utter astonishment, told me that members of the public had reported me for “filming children”. They took my camera off me and went through all the photographs on it (which typically included pictures of my baby son in the bath!) before returning my camera to me and telling me that I wasn’t allowed to take photographs there in future.

    To be fair to them, once they had decided that I probably wasn’t a child abuser, they were quite nice and sympathetic about the situation. However, this has really knocked my confidence in going out and about with a camera. I couldn’t bear to go through that sort of embarrassment again. God knows what would have happened if I’d been out with a full size DSLR. I’d have probably been terminated with extreme prejudice by a SWAT team or something.

    Has anyone else had this sort of experience? Was I foolish to think that in this day and age I could expect to take photos in a public place without being accused of child exploitation / terrorism or some other such thing? How the hell do all you street shooters manage without getting arrested?!
  2. Hyubie

    Hyubie Unique like everyone else

    Oct 15, 2010
    Real Name:
    Oh, wow. I couldn't imagine being in that situation. Even when driving and then hearing a police car blaring his siren behind me makes me nervous (always thinking I might have done something wrong, but they just want the right of way).

    I think this says more about us than the police, since it was the parents who reported you. And how mistrustful we have become.

    Honestly though, I'm a bit on the fence in this situation, having two girls myself. I don't know what I would have done in the same situation - maybe the timid me would just win out and just point my lens away from kids altogether - 20mm is wide enough to include kids (if you really need them on the frame) on the sides of the image.

    Just my 2 cents, not sure if I even helped. :smile:
  3. John M Flores

    John M Flores Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 7, 2011
    Somerville, NJ
    Sad to say this, but we live in an era of fear. People see something on the news and they presume that it's happening every day and every where.
  4. DekHog

    DekHog Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 3, 2011
    Welcome to the UK. Camera = Paedophile.

    They also have no authority to take your camera from you and go through the images.....
  5. SCT

    SCT Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 8, 2011
    Landover, MD, USA
    You know, I wonder the same. How do the more avid photographers get away with stuff that seems it would be stiff. I went to a VW press event which took place the same day as the ALMS race day at the track. This guy with a nice DSLR just go up to random people of all sorts. I mean every step he took, his camera was clicking. There was a lot of pretty, pretty girls there. He got pictures of them, the people around them. Me and my boss just felt the guy was odd, even though to me I more or less felt he was just a photographer that knew his stuff.

    If I was you, I wouldn't suffer over it and have it keep me from doing whatever. It could've been ******* kids or something or someone who never left the house before until that day and thought too much into what you could be doing and report ya. And 10 times out of 10, there were other photgraphers there. Maybe they thought you were there competition and just wanted to throw a brick in your way.
  6. DrLazer

    DrLazer Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 23, 2011
    Sheffield, UK
    Hello Rhys. I am from Sheffield too, nice to meet another 4/3rds user. I work right next to the peace gardens in an office block. Don't let the confrontation with the police knock your confidence. Sometimes members of the public see photographers as threatening in different ways. You have done nothing wrong so just keep on shooting. the police will have had no choice but to confront you about such allegations, police are generally smart people I am sure they knew what the crack was almost straight away. I have been stopped by those pesky city centre ambassadors before ... they are often worse than the police. They tend to have a jobsworth attitude because they have no real power. I hate the fact that my tax money pays their wages, what a waste. Just stand your ground when you are confronted, there are no laws to prevent you from taking photographs in a public place. The police may have told you not to take photographs in that area again but you didn't have to agree with that. you are not breaking any laws so they cannot prevent you from taking photographs there. I want to take a few HDR's of the peace gardens when the weather is right (this evening might be good actually) and no police or city ambassadors are going to stop me without good reason. Assuming I will be wearing clothes, I won't be breaking any laws.
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  7. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Yep, I get "Digital Photographer" magazine, and apparently, it is very common in the UK, despite being totally legal. There have been a number of articles on it. MY guess is that the police have realized that people now know it is legal and THEY made up the "child" bit all by themselves.

    Research and know your rights - it's the only way to avoid being trampled.

    The funny thing, I find (as an American), is the hypocrisy - how many government closed circuit surveillance cameras are monitoring that same square? Isn't it like 3 surveillance cameras PER PERSON in London?
  8. ripleys baby

    ripleys baby Straw clutcher

    Aug 10, 2011

    I would have demanded to see my accuser before letting anyone, (inc police)
    look at my camera.
    However the police can view your images if they think you are a terrorist !
    This is UK law. See link below. This has been well posted everywhere i think.
  9. DrLazer

    DrLazer Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 23, 2011
    Sheffield, UK
    lol, dont be silly, that would be 24 million CCTV cameras.
  10. chrism_scotland

    chrism_scotland Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 1, 2011
    Edinburgh, Scotland
    I'm lucky that noone blinks an eye at someone with a camera in Edinburgh, just about everyone's carrying one! Tourists!
    But its getting beyond a joke in the UK now, every week theres a new story about either the police or some jobsworth security guard preventing peoples right to take pictures.

    I can understand them being cautious around more secure or risky sites like an airport, train station or even major office sites (Company HQ's) but in the middle of a city its getting ridiculous.
  11. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin .

    Oct 9, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Real Name:
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