Photographing children

Interesting article here on police intimidation in the UK.

Basically a reporter taking a couple of pictures for a story, having identified himself as a reporter, from a public street, where a school was evacuated because of a bomb scare.

The police intimidated him in to deleting the pictures!

The odd thing is some of the reaction on twitter. Some people seem to think that taking pictures of children is illegal. The police officers suggested the pictures may be for "personal use" and that somehow that made their request for the images to be deleted valid.

Now, let's put this in context. I do not think that even pedophiles find images of normal fully clothed children arousing. If they did, then they just need to get a copy of the Mothercare catalogue to be happy. And bear in mind that people see children in public places all the time. If someone finding a fully clothed child arousing was somehow a "harm" to that child, you could not take children out in public at all, just in case. Do consider, just going shopping with them, many CCTV cameras are taking a picture of your kids 25 times a second.

But just think about it - I bet every parent of every kid there has pictures of those children for "personal reasons" and did not for one second think that in some way wrong or illegal. I have loads of pictures of my kids and grandchildren, even with no clothes on! Bear in mind the vast majority of child sex abuse is by family members, so that is not an irrelevant comparison by any means.

This is nothing to do with pedophiles whatsoever. This is a lot to do with police state intimidation of the press!

I am shocked that any reporter caved in to this - but I can appreciate the police can be intimidating. That is the problem, after all. Personally, I hope I would have had the nerve to ask:-

"Either my taking these pictures is a crime, in which case you are asking me to destroy evidence of a crime, or it is not, in which case I can go about my business without intimidation from you. Which is it?"

Maybe I would not have the nerve. At best I would turn off, and hence lock, the phone and offer it to them to either use as evidence to charge me or to return later with an apology - and then leave the scene.

The fun part is that the technology is already changing, and I am surprised any reporter with any clue is not already set up to auto-upload all photos to his editor in real time as a matter of course. That solves the issue with a "sorry mate, already in the cloud, nothing I can do".

One thing someone asked if whether the "press" are special, and for the most part they are not. The freedom of the press is a basic principle of any free and democratic society, but everyone is allowed to take pictures in public, pretty much. The press do, however, have some exceptions in the Data Protection Act to cover public interest where personal information is involved, so the fact kids may be identifiable from such pictures would not be an issue when published.

So the problem goes away with technology, thankfully. But this does not address the total paranoia of people that think anyone with a camera is up to no good. We all have eyes, and can see what we can see in public - using a camera is not a big step from that and is legal and normal and sensible. I hope that the fact that almost all of us now carry several cameras all the time is going to change that paranoia.

P.S. As a courtesy I did check my daughter was happy for these pictures of my grandson to be published. The original taking of these pictures was not seen as any issue by me or her though.


  1. Well as the article says they're a trainee journalist, and 18. So I imagine that they're wet behind the ears, haven't got too much experience and quite possibly aren't fully versed in what they can and cannot be doing.

  2. Getting the journalist/photog to delete the images would be tampering with evidence, wouldn't it?

    1. My point exactly - either a crime, and so deleting would be destroying evidence, or not a crime and so piss off.

    2. "Fine, let's have the camera then."

    3. So lock phone and hand over, done. The key point is that really the images should have uploaded automatically, so handing over phone is irrelevant.

    4. And if confirmed not a crime, the have to hand back phone anyway. Maybe some compensation even.

  3. My wife commented, and I think quote correctly, that if it was BBC OB van the parents would be pushing kids to front rather than getting police to harass journo.

  4. As a Blogger, you are technically a journalist :)

  5. Turning into North Korea, slowly, by degrees.

  6. Not children but...


  7. Just over a decade ago I took my 35mm SLR with long zoom lens to a football match my approx eleven year old nephew was playing in. My brother (the kid's father) said I'd have to get permission from all the parents to take pictures, whicn he reckoned would be impossible because someone would say no. I ignored him because it was in public hence no legal need, asked no-one, was blatantly obvious taking pictures (it's not a short lens) and I didn't get a single complaint. Obviously the average parent in Yorkshire back then had more sense than my brother. And most of the pictures had just my nephew and a couple of other kids in, with them often out of focus, I wanted pictures of my nephew not random strangers! Ironically I got better pictures of my niece posing for me on the touchline.

    Ignoring for a moment that this was in a public place, as RevK says these are kids clothed in stuff you can find in catalogues. Some people have strange ideas.

  8. I didn't even have the nerve to stand up to the Sainsbury's worker who told me I had to delete the video I'd taken of my own son in their store :(

    1. Indeed! In private property they can say no photographs as a condition of entry, and hence require you to leave if you do not comply, but not sure they have any legal right whatsoever to request you delete the photo. Again, auto upload to cloud kills that.


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