Quizzed in the House of Lords on public photography rights, the government has confirmed it would meet with Police associations to discuss guidelines on dealing with press photographers.
The announcement was made in the House of Lords on 16 July after Lord Rosser submitted an oral question on public photography rights. Addressing Lord Bassam of Brighton, who represented Her Majesty's Government in the House of Lords, Richard Rosser said: 'Is [Lords Bassam] aware that magazines for photographers are reporting that photographers, including professional press photographers, are being challenged by police and private security guards when taking photographs in the street and other public places?'
He continued: 'Photographers are sometimes filmed themselves; they are told to move on or asked for their name and address. They feel that they are being harassed. Although that development no doubt relates to the changed security situation, will my noble friend seek discussions with the Association of Chief Police Officers and other interested parties with a view to establishing clearer guidelines to be consistently applied and a mutually acceptable balance between security needs and the legal right to take photographs in public places?'
Lord Bassam answered that he was aware of such problems and that in addition to meeting with Jeremy Dear, the general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, the government will also 'make contact with the Association of Chief Police Officers and the National Policing Improvement Agency about the provision of national guidelines for use by police forces'.
Asked how the Government would make those guidelines apply in practice to the private security industry, Lord Bassam said that it might meet with the Security Industry Authority to discuss the issue and 'perhaps bring about a meeting of minds, because I think that there is an issue here'.
He stated: 'My Lords, we as a Government were responsible for the creation of the Security Industry Authority, with which this matter would perhaps bear being the subject of some discussion. Of course, we have the benefit of having the chair of the authority on our Benches. I have no doubt that we can engage in further discussions with her and perhaps bring about a meeting of minds, because I think that there is an issue here.'
However, Lord Bassam added that 'photographers have to exercise a degree of common sense and try to work with people. Perhaps that is not the right way to put it, but it ought to be the case. Photographers have to act responsibly in the public domain. Most of them do, and we should encourage that'.