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John Perriment

When you feel strongly about something....

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Sometimes in life we encounter issues and injustices that we feel strongly about. But, other than voice our opinions to anyone who will listen, what do we actually do?

The answer, in my case at least, is very little or nothing. Take the issue of photographer's rights, for example. I did attend the gathering of photographers outside New Scotland Yard last February, but since then all I've done is huff and puff on various forums.

Today, however, I felt that it was time that I became a little more pro-active. I've sent a letter voicing my concerns to Sir Paul Stephenson, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and will be writing also to the Home Office. I doubt that Sir Paul himself will even get to see my letter, but I feel it is better to do something rather than nothing. If we all increase the pressure maybe eventually it will force change. I feel that we have to try.

For those interested, here is a copy of my letter:-

Dear Sir Paul,

I am writing to you to express my concern over the apparent policy of the Metropolitan Police Force to systematically target photographers through the Stop and Search provisions of Section 44 of the Counter Terrorism Act.

The recent revelation that the whole of the Metropolitan Police district has been subject to a rolling program of authorisation for Stop and Search under Section 44 without reasonable grounds for suspicion since 2001 I find particularly alarming. I seriously consider that the threat to our liberty and freedom that this poses is a greater threat than that of terrorist attack itself.

Having said that, it might be easier to justify if there was any evidence that terrorists were making regular use of high-end digital cameras, in particular DSLRs, for surveillance. As you know there is no evidence to support this, therefore the policy is not only wrong but also ineffective and a waste of police time and resources. I offer the opinion that it would actually make more sense to stop and search mobile phone users at random as not only do these devices record photographs and video but they can also serve as a means of communication between terrorists and even act as remote detonators for bombs. Also, they are less conspicuous and more covert than a professional or enthusiast level DSLR camera. Not that I am advocating the systematic harassment of mobile phone users; that, too, would be wrong.

May I remind you that the principle aim of terrorist organisations is not to kill and maim as many people as possible; that is just a means to an end. Their real objective is to cause fear, panic, mistrust and division within our society, which they hope will eventually lead to its downfall. They have won the first round, by creating a division between the police and law-abiding photographers. Many photography Internet forums are currently rife with indignation, anger and contempt for the police, mostly from middle-aged, middle-class, law-abiding people who have traditionally supported, respected and appreciated the police.

We must not let the terrorists win by allowing them to intimidate us, divide us and turn us against each other. We must stand firm and protect our hard won freedoms and liberties that have been progressively woven into the fabric of our society since Magna Carta.
Following the judgement on the 12th January by the European Court of Human Rights that the use of stop and search powers without reasonable grounds for suspicion contravenes article 8 of the Human Rights Convention, I seek your urgent assurance that there will be an immediate and fundamental change in your force's policy, restricting both Stop and Search and Stop and Account to occasions when there are clear and reasonable grounds for suspicion.

Then, and only then, can we seek to rebuild the respect and trust that we have traditionally enjoyed between the public and our country's principle police force. Should you wish to discuss this issue in greater depth I will be willing to meet you or your representatives from the Metropolitan Police force.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.

Yours sincerely,

John Perriment.

copies circulated to Home Office and interested photography groups

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  1. AndyElliott's Avatar
    I fully support this blog entry. Might it be worth setting up an e-petition and pointing people at it as a way to quantify the support?

  2. Bear's Avatar
    Well done - I fully support you but without wishing to discourage this noble attempt to have the MP change their policy, I would point you in the direction of the comments from Alan Johnson. I don't have the full text of his comments but the gist of his response to the ruling was as follows: the government is disappointed with this ruling and there will be no change in the police use of these powers. As with the ECHR ruling on the UK DNA database - this ruling is being ignored. The law does not apply to the government and its Police.
  3. John Perriment's Avatar
    I sense a letter to Alan Johnson comming on!

    I'm under no illusions about the scale of the task before us, but I'm not about to give up. We have to fight these idiots! We have to win! And we will.......
  4. AndyElliott's Avatar
    I think perhaps a letter to David Cameron (or Dominic Grieve/Chris Grayling) may be more useful. Labour home secretaries rarely go for liberal policy right before an election - and I suspect they won't have much to say in 5 months time anyway!

  5. John Perriment's Avatar
    Good thinking, Andy, that may be my job for tomorrow!
  6. John Perriment's Avatar
    Just to update those who are interested.

    I have received the predictable response from David Searle at the Commissioner's Private Office that my letter has been forwarded to the Customer Service Unit - without, of course, Sir Paul himself reading it.

    Oh well, time for another atttempt. Here is my reply:-

    Dear Mr Searle,

    I recently wrote personally to the Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, expressing my concern at the way in which Section 44 of the Counter Terrorism Act is being applied, or miss-applied as I consider, in the Metropolitan district (copy of letter enclosed).

    Whilst I appreciate your prompt reply I am nevertheless disappointed that my letter has been forwarded to your Customer Service Unit with the intended recipient, Sir Paul, apparently not having read it himself. You and I both know that only a standard policy response will be forthcoming from your Customer Service Unit and that is not good enough, for it is the policy itself which must change.

    I would therefore ask you again, please, to ensure that Sir Paul reads my letter and affords me the courtesy of a personal reply. I would also urge him to accept my offer of a meeting during which this extremely important issue of personal rights and liberty can be discussed in detail. Can I ask you please to impress upon him the growing strength of anger of thousands of honest, law-abiding photographers. This situation is most unhealthy and plays straight into our enemies hands because, if it continues, I foresee the Metropolitan Police becoming so embroiled in disputes with photographers on the streets, resulting in a multiplication of complaints that require laborious investigation, that they become ineffective in countering the real threat of terrorism which has nothing to do with photography.

    I await Sir Paul's reply with interest.

    Yours sincerely,

    John Perriment

    I am not naive enough to think that I might get an appropriate response, or even a reply from the person who matters, but we must keep up the pressure in any way we can.