If I’d taken this image today, I would not be breaking the law. If I take it from tomorrow (16 February 2009), I may well be. Why? It includes images of members of HM forces, albeit in a ceremonial role. From tomorrow when the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 comes into force, capturing images including members of HM Forces, the intelligence services (how will I know?) and police officers can be considered illegal.
I should make it quite clear I have no problems in legislation that helps to fight terrorism. I watched in horror on 9/11; I spent a nerve wracking three hours on 7th July 2005 waiting to hear my husband was safe in London and a fortnight later on 21 July, I was in London on the day of the failed bombings and had to seek shelter in my organisation’s offices for over five hours, until it was considered safe to travel. However, I believe in considered, intelligent legislation; legislation that doesn’t over react.
Since the London bombings it has become increasingly uncomfortable to take photographs in public places. I personally haven’t been stopped, but I’ve been in a situation where police officers have become uneasy about the public taking pictures (and this was at a sporting event – the Tour of Britain). I’m now very reluctant to use my DSLR in London or any other major city and would only do so at what are considered known tourist attractions. I like to capture the spontaneous, the unusual, but to do so in London now I’d only use a more discrete compact, point and shoot. Unfortunately, the point and shoot I have doesn’t have the capabilities of my DSLR, thus reducing my ability to try to create a good image.
We wait to see how the law will be applied. It is quite absurd to think that tourists in London could be stopped for taking pictures of changing the guard at Buckingham Palace or the guards at Horse Guard’s Parade or the Palace of Westminster because the images include soldiers or police officers. Yes, I want to live in a safe country and one that takes every reasonable step to make it so. But the emphasis is on the word reasonable.