Welcome home back to the UK, NOT!
I was in Windsor, Berkshire, close to the Castle, a major tourist attraction, shooting with a Sony AX100, a compact consumer handycam. I was using a small 3 stage tripod and I was standing on the public right of way pavement shooting the castle. I had arrived in Windsor early to avoid the worst of the crowds.
After a few minutes I am approached by a single Police officer and a council warden. After exchanging pleasant “good mornings” The first question I am asked is: “What are you doing, is it for professional or private purposes?”.
Now, I know that as I am not on private property I can shoot without restriction and it makes no difference whether I am an amateur or a professional, there is no differentiation between the two under UK law when it comes to taking photos or video both have the same rights.
So as I’m unsure quite how to respond as I am a professional cameraman, but I was not shooting for any particular production or client I respond: “Does it make a difference whether it’s professional or private?”, to which the warden tells me yes it does, it makes a difference (which is incorrect). Next I’m asked who I’m working for etc.
OK, OK, hands in the air, I could have handled this better. But, I don’t have to explain to the police what I am doing, who I work for etc. I am perfectly within my rights to shoot video from a public pavement and I don’t need to explain to all and sundry what I am doing and why. I get fed up with being stopped by the police in this country whenever I turn up on a street with a pro camera or tripod.
So next I get the whole, well we have to be vigilant, you might be a terrorist bit. Huh? Would a terrorist stand with a tripod in such an obvious manner, there were people all over the place with all kinds of cameras shooting all kinds of thing, but because I had a tripod, was on my own and taking my time I was singled out as a terrorist threat! For goodness sake, it was a consumer camcorder just like the hundreds of others in the hands of the thousands of tourists that visit Windsor every day. Do the police stop all of them, or are they just singling out those that look like they might be professionals? If they want to know who I am then they should have asked for ID, but they didn’t, they never asked who I was, where I lived, jus whether I was shooting for professional or private purposes.
So I asked to be left alone so I could get on with what I was lawfully doing. After a couple of minutes they gave up and stood behind me chatting into their radios and making snide remarks that I was obviously meant to hear about about my attitude. I continued to shoot shots of the castle.
Then I look up from the camera to find a police sargent standing right in front of me, blocking my shot. “Excuse me sir can you tell me what your doing?”. By now I’m getting pretty angry with this whole thing. “I’m trying to shoot some video of the castle, but you’re preventing me from doing it”. “Oh no, I’m not stopping you” say’s the policeman.
Uh well actually, while perhaps not physically restraining me, the fact that the guy was standing in front of me along with the constant hassling meant I was prevented from shooting, so after a further “discussion” about my right to shoot and not being a terrorist I was in effect forced to move on simply to get away from the now 3 police officers and a warden making it very hard to do what I wanted to do.
Why is it I can travel around the world shooting this and that all over the place, but when I return to my home country I get prevented from going about my lawful business under the pathetic pretext of being some kind of terrorist threat. I don’t have to explain what I am doing, who I work for, whether I’m shooting for private or commercial purposes when I’m going about my business in a public area. Clearly the police didn’t like the fact that I knew my rights.
I admit that I could of handled the situation better, but when the first question you get asked is whether your shooting for private or commercial purposes you just can’t tell what’s coming next. Plus, frankly the situation should never have arisen in the first place. I wasn’t doing anything wrong, I shouldn’t have to explain to the police what I am doing just because I’m using a tripod. I am really fed up with this happening here in the UK. It’s crazy because whenever I want to go and shoot something, I don’t want this kind of hassle, so I have to try to figure out locations where I won’t be bothered by the police. I shouldn’t have to do this.