February 17th, 2009 in Breaking News

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Illegal to take pictures of police engaged in counter-terrorist operations

Henry Porter: Calling the police to account | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.

On the day that it becomes illegal to take pictures of police engaged in counter-terrorist operations – in practice a ban on taking pictures of the police – it is worth noting events in Brighton recently where police set up outside a cafe and photographed people attending a meeting about the environment.

According to the Brighton Argus, members of the Cowley Club, which was hosting a meeting of Earth First, “were confronted with four uniformed officers outside the Somerfield store, opposite the venue, snapping visitors using a paparazzi-style lens”. One of the club members, David Biset, said the police were behaving in a deliberately “intimidating manner”. He said:

Avenues of dissent are being closed down and police feel able to treat politics as a police matter. There was no suggestion of anything going on outside the building. The police have no reason to be there beyond intimidating people. You shouldn’t be put on a database simply for attending a meeting.

The local MP, David Lepper, agrees that the police operation was designed to scare activists rather than prevent crime, and has written to the divisional commander for Brighton and Hove demanding to know why officers were photographing people engaged in a political activity. The police have refused to comment other than to produce the usual assertion that this was a normal police operation.