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Counter Terrorism Act 2008 – implications for cameramen?

As GTC members have expressed concern over the potential impact of the new Counter-Terrorism Act on cameramen going about their work, Dudley Darby asked PC Alan Cousins of the Metropolitan Police Film Unit for an interpretation of the relevant parts of this long and complex act.

The Counter Terrorism Act 2008 is new UK legislation that came into force on 16 February 2009 that backs up the existing Terrorism Act 2000. It is a lengthy piece of law, including some additional legislation about photographing certain members of HM Forces, Intelligence Services and the Police (Section 76 Offences relating to information about members of armed forces etc). A section 58A is added to the Terrorism Act 2000 (collection of information) as follows:

[Extract] “58A Eliciting, publishing or communicating information about members of armed forces etc(1) A person commits an offence who—

(a) elicits or attempts to elicit information about an individual who is or 
has been –

(i) a member of Her Majesty’s forces,
(ii) a member of any of the intelligence services, or
(iii) a constable,

which is of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism, or

(b) publishes or communicates any such information.

(2) It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to prove that they had a reasonable excuse for their action.

(1)(a)(iii) is the part of this new offence causing concern among cameramen. Information received from the Metropolitan Police Film Unit explains that:

“The new offence is intended to help protect those in the front line of our counter terrorism operations from terrorist attack. 

For the offence to be committed, the information would have to raise a reasonable suspicion that it was intended to be used to provide practical assistance to terrorists.

Taking photographs of police officers would not (except in very exceptional circumstances) be caught by this offence. Any prosecution would need to meet the public interest test applied by prosecutors and there is also a statutory defence that the person had a reasonable excuse for eliciting, publishing or communicating the information.

I hope this is useful and helps to reassure you that your daily work should not be interrupted as a result of this new legislation.” 

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