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Filming and photography by and of Police

Comment 10th July 2010

Currently Police are allowed to photograph and video anyone on a demonstration, march or gathering.  At any event, but particularly at gatherings addressing civil liberties, environmental issues or animals, Police commonly out-number demonstrators and blatantly video peaceful marchers or people standing at a table selling literature under a banner. For example, in Oxford Police stand on the other side of the street and film a group of people standing under a banner and collecting signatures to do with animal testing.  At marches Police stand on ladders and film everyone on the march.  It is common practice, I suspect it is always done.   At the same time it is an offence to photograph police officers.

This behaviour is intimidating, it means many concerned but lawful citizens are held on Police databases as if they have a 'police record', while all they have done is to show concern and draw attention to an issue of public concern in a peaceful way.  Being filmed deters many – maybe most people, from participating in political events and issues.  Intimidation is stiffling debate and stultifying the possibility of change.

Police should not be allowed to film people on marches or demonstrations or petition collectors.  On the other hand, the public should be allowed to photograph Police, as they are public servants and should have nothing to hide.

Why does this matter?

Filming is intimidatory behaviour and is stultifying debate and public participation in important issues.  People should be allowed to particpate in peaceful demonstrations without the fear that they will be filmed and thereby branded as a potential trouble maker.  Most demonstrators, petition collectors and marchers and concerned citizens wishing to draw attention to what they consider are important issues.  They are trying to effect change by persuasion, argument and commitment.  Being filmed by the Police criminalises them.  The practice is stiffling public participation in politics and important issues.

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