Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Police release film of suspects' 'terror targets'

Police release film of suspects' 'terror targets'

I have been keeping out of the debate on Police stopping photographers under the Terrorism act section 43 and 44 partly because there are already others out there doing a great job, and to be honest, here in sleepy Nottingham it isn’t actually a major problem, as most of the police around the East Midlands seem to have other things on their mind.

However, having said that, I have just been reading some of the reporting on the ‘so-called’ hostile reconnaissance video, supposedly taken by an Algerian ‘terror’ suspect.

If the BBC reporting is to be trusted, and similar reports were made in the British Journal of Photography, although one has to note that the initial report by the BJP has been heavily cleaned up of any quotes from police officers, some of which were outrageous, then the police have a pretty strange use of logic!

The original report by the BJP prompted me to write to the editor Simon Bainbridge the following missive:

Dear Sir,

"The City of London Police released video footage taken using a camera phone by an Algerian man in 'hostile reconnaissance' to justify stopping photographers"

What an illuminating statement from the City of London Police reported by BJP today (15th December).

By what logic exactly does the fact that:

"his camera phone had more than 90 minutes of video footage of tube stations, CCTV cameras and sensitive locations around London."

Justify the topping of photographers? Presumably as this arrested person was using a camera-phone when he was doing all this 'filming', the justification is not for stopping photographers at all, but for stopping people using camera-phones? That would include perhaps 25% of the adult population?

If the inference is that this person was conducting covert surveillance, then he did it using an innocent looking camera-phone such as many normal, average members of the public use on a regular basis throughout the day. Using this same logic surely it is very unlikely that Professional (or amateur) photographers carrying thousands of pounds worth of expensive and very obvious Japanese neck jewelry, and staying in one place long enough to be spotted, stopped and questioned by police should be the target of any terrorist stop and search.

Indeed by the very logic of Superintendent Chris Greany of the City of London Police, the police should instead be pouncing on anyone daring to use a camera phone.

Just how stupid do our police want us to think they are?

Kind regards

Pete Jenkins

Sky News have the same basic line as the BBC

If this is the best the police can do to justify harassing ordinary amateur and professional photographers then frankly it looks pathetic. Hostile reconnaissance? Really? If this was a terrorist cell in action and the proof we are told was there then why was the full weight iof the law brought down upon these people?

We are told according to the BBC:

“The police said the CPS had decided there was sufficient evidence to bring terrorism charges, but it was not in the public interest because they would have received the same sentence as for fraud.”

Not in the public interest?

And there’s more:

“Police believe the men may have been a fundraising and research arm of an al Qaeda-linked group in North Africa.”

Yet despite this:

“Two men were subsequently convicted of a huge mobile phone and luxury goods fraud scam and deported after serving prison sentences.”

Not convicted for anything to do with terrorism then? So in fact they have not been found guilty of anything to do with terrorism, so the whole terrorism angle is simply supposition by the police (so we are told)?

And what makes all this worse; this awful stream of images and the subsequent inferences are being used to justify, not as one would expect, the stopping and checking of people using mobile phones as video cameras conducting, (so we are told), hostile reconnasince, but instead as the most feeble justification yet for stopping ordinary professional and amateur photographers and videographers out on the street, hiding nothing.

It is a complete joke. The police simply have to get a grip. How can we seriously can we take our forces of Law and Order when they seem to continually hassle people simply for taking photographs?

Pete Jenkins

Member of: The National Union of Journalists

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