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Right of the public to photgraph, film or record police on duty

Comment 3rd August 2010

Give private citizens a statutory right to photograph, film, or record the conversations of, police while on duty, with or without consent; to be able to publish that film etc, and for Courts & Tribunals to be able to use it as evidence.

Why does this matter?

It is the case that around the world the actions of the police are not monitored effectively.  Experience shows that this gives an irresistable temptation for some to abuse their position.  This will continue to happen for as long as police are human.  But ultimately it undermines respect trust and confidence in the police force and must reduce the amount of cooperation that they receive.

We have now moved into an era in which the public at large have the facility to record such abuses, by means of mobile phones (can photograph, film and record, and crucially are always to hand).  This gives a tremendous opportunity to introduce a sea change in police culture: If senior officers known that any abuse is likely to be filmed, might appear on Utube etc and will be available to the Courts, then they will ensure that their officers behave.  Imagine!

But instead we are hearing reports of police finding ways – lawful and otherwise – to prevent themselves being filmed or to prevent such evidence being used in court.  And I am afraid that in their position, I would probably do the same.  But that does not mean that it is right or in the public interest.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?  After 2000 years, society now has a good answer to this conundrum.  And UK politicians have an opportunity to lead.  Is it too much to hope that they take it? 

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