This map shows areas in the UK where photography is restricted by law as well as places where photography is often restricted even though there is no legal basis for doing so. You may often be able to photograph these places without any trouble at all, however, photographing in or around these areas may be subject to additional attention from bored security guards or police officers.
Under s58a (more commonly known as s76) of the Terrorism Act 2000 it is an offence carrying a sentence of up to 10 years imprisonment:
a) To collect or possesses information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.
b) Possess a document or record containing information of that kind.
This is obviously a hugely wide ranging power with massive scope for abuse on the ground. The normal burden of proof is reversed so that the accused must prove that they had a reasonable excuse for having the information in their possession. The act also goes on to specifically include photographs.
While it is unlikely that a case against a photographer would ever make it to court to be accused of this crime by an officer on the ground can still be disruptive and threatening for photographers.
Previous to s76 there were very few laws restricting photography apart from in specified areas such as nuclear facilities, army bases and airports. However this new law means that taking a photograph of anything that may be of use to a terrorist such as a bus station or a ship could lead to arrest or at the least a stop and search.
The Official Secrets Act 1911
There are numerous areas that are considered prohibited places under s3 of the Official Secrets Act where it is illegal to collect, record, publish, or communicate to any other person photographs or information which is calculated to be or might be or is intended to be directly or indirectly useful to an enemy. These include:
- Military establishments, munitions stores, aircraft and ships
- Civil Aviation property and naval dockyards
- Telephone exchanges and communications centres
The Secretary of State may also declare any railway, road, waterway, power station, waterworks, nuclear power station or any other place owned or being used by the state a prohibited place although nowhere currently is.
Some places have bylaws specifically forbidding photography without permission. Airports usually have a bylaw to this effect. Trafalgar Square, Parliament Square, and the Royal Parks all have bylaws that forbid photography for commercial purposes without a permit but allow amateurs. Generally speaking using a tripod is considered ‘commercial’ and anyone using one is usually swooped upon within seconds by heritage or park wardens.
There are numerous places that may seem public, but are in fact private. Many town shopping centres are now privately owned and as such the property owners may set restrictions on photography. They may not have any displayed restrictions but you can be asked to leave the property immediately by the owners or their agents (security guards for example) without any reason.
This is by no means an exhaustive list or full discussion of the relevant legislation and does not cover the use of harassment, privacy laws or injunctions that are also used against photographers or the publication of photographs. If you can think of anything that we should add, leave a comment below.