The Sun, that picture, and that headline.

As did pretty much every national newspaper this morning, The Sun ran a picture of Colonel Gaddafi’s bloodied corpse on its front page. What sets The Sun apart, is the headline under which they ran it. In huge, big, bold, type it yelled:

‘That’s for Lockerbie, Gaddafi. And for Yvonne Fletcher. And IRA Semtex victims’

Leaving aside the dodgy factual matrix of the motivation for his death, I am interested in the motivation of the headline.

Headlines sell papers. I will be interested to know what the sales of The Sun are today – particularly as to whether they increase, or decrease (acknowledging of course, they may just stay the same). I am also interested in who The Sun is speaking to, and for.

The mainly liberal Twitter is this morning awash with criticism of all the papers for putting photographs of a corpse on their front pages, with a touch of extra distain for The Sun and its headline. However, largely Twitter users are not purchasers of The Sun.

The Sun is not a paper we can afford to ignore. Or rather, its readership is not a demographic we can afford to ignore. The 4th largest selling daily paper, it has a significant lead on sales over the paper everyone loves to hate, The Daily Mail. The ABCs for September show The Sun sold 2,725,323 copies.

The Sun’s headline this morning is all about ignoring due process, and demonstrating that revenge is an acceptable path. It doesn’t caveat that. Essentially, it says ‘a bad guy met a bad end. Good’.

Is that acceptable? I am not asking if it was okay for the Libyans to do what they did. That isn’t for me, or in my opinion, anyone else but them to decide – their societal rules are different to ours, and they have lived under a dictatorship for many years. I am asking if demonstrating the mindset that revenge is sweet in our society is acceptable, to us.

Extrapolating (prossibly wildly): in saying to its readers that it is okay to ignore due process, The Sun is feeding into a psychology that most of us know exists, but try our best to ignore. The mindset of the mob rule, the mob who would happily endorse public hangings of ‘paedos’ and ‘child killers’ regardless of whether there has been a full and proper trial or not.

The question is, when the likes of The Sun feed that mindset, how do we educate it?


Braehead and Mr White: A very odd tale

I first wrote about the story of Mr White, photography and the Prevention of Terrorism Act a few days ago, which can be found here.

Since then, the shopping centre has issued this statement:

Photography Policy Change

We have listened to the very public debate surrounding our photography policy and as a result, with immediate effect, are changing the policy to allow family and friends to take photos in the mall.

We will publicise this more clearly in the mall and on our website, and will reserve the right to challenge suspicious behaviour for the safety and enjoyment of our shoppers.

We wish to apologise to Mr White for the distress we may have caused to him and his family and we will be in direct contact with him to apologise properly.

which can be found on the shopping centre website here.

It seemed from that statement that the shopping centre realised, in this instance, it was in the wrong. That it had perhaps over reacted to the ‘facts’ as put out by Mr White over social media, and picked up by the main stream media.

Storm over?

Well, not quite. Strathclyde Police have now issued their own statement, which can be found here, debunking Mr White’s tale. They say:

The members of the public who asked for the security staff to become involved have told us that they did so for reasons which had absolutely nothing to do with him taking photographs of his daughter. They had a very specific concern, which I am not in a position to discuss publicly, that they felt the need to report. It was because of this very specific concern that security staff became involved. They were right to raise their concern and we are glad that they did so.

They go on to specifically refute Mr White’s allegation that police raised the issue of the Prevention of Terrorism Act:

“When our officers became involved they did not confiscate any items, nor was Mr White questioned under counter terrorist legislation. It is wrong to suggest that the police spoke to Mr White because he claimed he had been photographing his daughter, or that officers made any reference to counter terror legislation. Mr.White knows, or ought to know, why our officers spoke with him.

Interesting stuff, but still very oblique as to what did happen. I find it especially interesting that if the police statement is correct, Mr White is clearly very clever in knowing how to push public buttons by raising the issue of the Prevention of Terrorism Act in the way he did.

There are now further rumours circulating about Mr White’s alleged conduct and the actual reason why members of the public did alert security, and why security subsequently called the police. Those allegations for now, do not appear to have come from any reliable source.

And in the middle of this, there is the statement from the shopping centre, apologising expressly to Mr White, and altering their photography policy. Their reaction certainly led weight to Mr White’s case. Was that the result a knee-jerk PR exercise? It certainly doesn’t seem to fit with the statement from Strathclyde. Odd.

The only thing that appears certain is that the full story of this incident is not yet out there, but clearly someone isn’t being entirely honest. Anyone running a book?















Say Cheese!

There is a story over on the BBC Scotland site today, about a guy in Scotland who took photographs of his daughter while they were in a shopping centre.

Apparently a security guard approached and told dad that it is illegal to take photographs in the shopping centre, and asked him to delete any pictures he had taken from his phone.

Dad said he had already posted two to FaceBook, and for some reason the police were then called. Somewhat alarmingly, Dad alleges that he was told by one of the police officers that under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the officer was entitled to confiscate his phone.

The article does not say how the matter was resolved, but there is a statement from Superintendent George Nedley in the article, saying:

“I can confirm we have received a complaint regarding this incident and one of my senior officers has spoken to Mr White regarding this.

“As a result a full review of the circumstances surrounding the incident and the allegations made is under way.”

Starting firstly with the shopping centre, they say that they have a no photograph policy within the centre, which is clearly signed around the building.

That is fair enough. Places such as shopping centres are entitled to put in place rules around how they expect people to behave in their building/on their land, and if the rules are not kept to, they are entitled to ask a visitor to leave; which is what should have occurred in this instance.

What they are not entitled to do, unless it makes clear within the signage (and even then it is doubtful) is insist a person deletes the photographs taken on a private device.

Turning to the police, they should have had the sense to realise this was a civil matter, and unless Dad was either kicking off or refusing to leave, should have refused to become involved. Why on earth they did so, is anyone’s guess.

How they (if indeed the story is true) then got from taking snaps and posting them to FaceBook contrary to the rules laid down by a shopping centre, to the Prevention of Terrorism Act, is beyond bewildering.

However, it is believable, because we hear so many stories from many quarters (and the funniest I have heard is a PCSO challenging an off duty police Inspector, including calling a backup car to deal with the said Inspector) saying that someone in a uniform has misguidedly tried to tell them that due to terrorism, you are not allowed to take pictures in public places anymore.

Indeed, even the Association of Chief Police Officers recognise it is a problem, and that uniforms at street level are getting it wrong, hence the emails below. I keep a copy of these in our camera bag. Seems it might be wise to put them in my shopping bag too.

To: all Chief Constables and Commissioners


Dear Colleague

Section 44 Terrorism Act and Photography

Adverse media coverage of the police service use of Section 44 powers, when dealing with issues relating to photography, have recently hit the headlines again and suggests that officers continue to misuse the legislation that is available to them. The evidence also suggests that there is confusion over the recording requirements of ‘Stop and Account’ and the actual police powers of ‘Stop and Search’. The purpose of this letter is to clarify the legislation and guidance in relation to these matters.

Stop and Search
Section 44 gives officers no specific powers in relation to photography and there is no provision in law for the confiscation of equipment or the destruction of images, either digital or on film.

On the rare occasion where an officer suspects that an individual is taking photographs as part of target reconnaissance for terrorist purposes, then they should be treated as a terrorist suspect and dealt with under Section 43 of the Act. This would ensure that the legal power exists to seize equipment and recover images taken. Section 58A Counter Terrorism Act 2008 provides powers to cover instances where photographs are being taken of police officers who are, or who have been, employed at the front line of counter terrorism operations.

These scenarios will be exceptionally rare events and do not cover instances of photography by rail enthusiasts, tourists or the media.

The ACPO/NPIA Practice Advice, published in December 2008, is again included with this letter and specifically covers the issues surrounding photography. The guidance also includes the need for clear briefings on the use of Section 44 and it may be appropriate to include photography issues within those briefings.

Stop and Account
Encounters between police officers and PCSOs and the public range from general conversation through to arrest. Officers need to be absolutely clear that no record needs to be submitted to cover any activity that merely constitutes a conversation.

Only at the point where a member of the public is asked to account for their actions, behaviour, presence in an area or possession of an item, do the provisions of the PACE Act apply and a record for that ‘stop and account’ need to be submitted. Even at that point, such a discussion does not constitute the use of any police power and should not be recorded under the auspices of the Terrorism Act, for example.

Officers should be reminded that it is not an offence for a member of the public or journalist to take photographs of a public building and use of cameras by the public does not ordinarily permit use of stop and search powers.

Yours sincerely

Andrew Trotter OBE QPM
Chief Constable
Head of ACPO Media Advisory Group

26 August 2010

Dear Colleagues

Guidance for Photographers

I am writing to you in my capacity as Chair of the ACPO Communications Advisory Group which sits in the Presidential Business Area.

There have been a number of recent instances highlighted in the press where officers have detained photographers and deleted images from their cameras. I seek your support in reminding your officers and staff that they should not prevent anyone from taking photographs in public. This applies equally to members of the media and public seeking to record images, who do not need a permit to photograph or film in public places. ACPO guidance is as follows:

• There are no powers prohibiting the taking of photographs, film or digital images in a public place. Therefore members of the public and press should not be prevented from doing so.

• We need to cooperate with the media and amateur photographers. They play a vital role as their images help us identify criminals.

• We must acknowledge that citizen journalism is a feature of modern life and police officers are now photographed and filmed more than ever.

• Unnecessarily restricting photography, whether for the casual tourist or professional is unacceptable and it undermines public confidence in the police service.

• Once an image has been recorded, the police have no power to delete or confiscate it without a court order.

If you require further guidance please refer to the ACPO website or contact [email address redacted]

Yours sincerely

Andrew Trotter

Chief Constable

Chair of ACPO Communication Advisory Group

***Update: Braehead have now altered their photography policy, which may be viewed here.