UK cops threaten to bust woman who videos her boyfriend's search on terrorism charges

Richard sez, "A woman was handcuffed, detained and threatened with arrest for filming officers on her mobile phone - who abused the abysmal UK terrorism laws."
Atkinson's mobile phone recorded part of the incident at Aldgate East underground station on 25 March, one month after Section 58(a) - a controversial amendment to the Terrorism Act - came into force, making it illegal to photograph a police officer if the images are considered "likely to be useful" to a terrorist...

The opening part of the mobile phone clip shows two uniformed police officers searching her boyfriend, Fred Grace, 28, by a wall in the station. Atkinson said she felt that police had unfairly targeted Grace, who did not have drugs in his possession, and decided to film the officers in order to hold them to account.

Seconds later, an undercover officer wearing jeans and a black jacket enters the shot, and asks Atkinson: "Do you realise it is an offence under the Terrorism Act to film police officers?" He then adds: "Can you show me what you you just filmed?"

Atkinson stopped filming and placed her phone in her pocket. According to her account of the incident, which was submitted to the Independent Police Complaints Commission that night, the officer tried several times to forcefully grab the phone from her pocket.

Failing to get the phone, he called over two female undercover officers from nearby. Atkinson said he told the women: "This young lady had been filming me and the other officers and it's against the law. Her phone is in her right jacket pocket and I'm trying to get it..."

A second female officer approached her and said, incorrectly: "Look, your boyfriend's just been arrested for drugs, so I suggest you do as we say."

Atkinson claims the male undercover officer who initially approached her repeatedly threatened her with arrest, stating: "We believe you filmed us and that's against the law so we need to check your phone." When Atkinson protested, the officer replied: "I don't want to see myself all over the internet."

After officers made calls to the police station, possibly for legal advice on the situation, the handcuffs were removed and Atkinson was released.

She said the officers walked away - all but one of them refused to identify themselves to her.

Woman 'detained' for filming police search launches high court challenge (Thanks, Richard!)


  1. all but one of them refused to identify themselves to her. Don’t they number police badges for just such an occasion?

  2. We clearly need a new generation of cameras and phones that auto-load their contents directly to the internet. Confiscating them would be useless.

  3. We also need to general public to start stomping the shit out of cops who pull this sort of thing. Of course, it’ll never happen ’cause it only happens to criminals and you only have something to fear if you’re guilty, etc, etc, etc.

  4. She said the officers walked away – all but one of them refused to identify themselves to her.

    IMNSHO, police who refuse to identify themselves ought to be considered criminals – arrested, subdued, and held for a legitimate officer to come take custody of them. This is a real basic element of a free society, people.

  5. Man, this is awful. I’m glad it’s not this bad in the US, but we still need to be paying attention or else this will be the norm before we realize it.

  6. I keep meaning to re-read 1984, but good ol’ England seems to be working its way up to re-enacting it.

    Performance art at its most epic in scale.

  7. #Jessemoya: US police will bully you and try to stop you if you start filming them during a questionable procedure. They might or might not invoke “terrorism” as an excuse.

  8. We need to fight those dirty cell phone terrorists here so we don’t have to fight them over there!

  9. @ Nosehat #5:

    Yes, but at least in the U.S. they don’t have the law on their side when they do it. Otherwise very few people ever would have heard of Rodney King or Oscar Grant.

  10. In the US, it is against the law to identify yourself to a police officer. Oddly, it’s not against the law for the police to identify themselves to you, although it does annoy the heck out of them when you demand their credentials and examine them for a prolonged amount of time.

  11. Out of interest, how does this work with CCTV cameras? I mean surely if it’s illegal to use a phone to do it then it’s also illegal to use CCTV to film them.

  12. In America, police who refuse to identify themselves ARE criminals.

    It’s also legal to videotape them. Whew.

  13. ah, after having watched in the link above I can safely say that the Metro cops are painting themselves into a corner. Do they really imagine people will let this kind of gross abuse continue indefinitely?

    Make war on the people long enough, and they WILL make war on you.

  14. In the US, it is against the law to identify yourself to a police officer. Oddly, it’s not against the law for the police to identify themselves to you, although it does annoy the heck out of them…


    I’m thinking there are some words missing or backwards in that statement.

  15. The UK has WAY too many laws against its citizenry. There’s going to be another revolution if they keep it up.

  16. Some of you have seen the Baltimore Harbor skateboard incident, haven’t you? “I don’t want to see myself all over the internet.” Publicity is the new threat.

    A few years ago, I have a friend who witnessed the police in Baltimore beating a young man who had been riding an illegal dirt bike in the city. People often use them for drug running. He pulled out his phone to film the event, and was grabbed behind by a plainclothes cop. He missed a day of work. When he came back, he was missing his phone, had a seriously swollen face (from the illegal beating he took), and an unjustified assault charge that he eventually beat at significant personal expense for the law firm.

    It doesn’t matter what the law is in the US. If the police can cover their tracks right, many of them will beat the populace into submission.

  17. Keeper of the Lantern

    check out shozu at it automatically uploads pictures and videos to what every sites you want. I use it to put pictures in my Live gallery and upload videos to youtube. And it all happens with out any prompt or sign that its working so if a cop takes your phone they wouldn’t know whats happening.

  18. Turns out most of the incriminating footage at The Guaridan site wasn´t her own video, but rather CCTV-footage.

    Good thing that the CCTV was there to record the cops behaviour so that it wouldn´t just be her word against theirs.

    Wait, what?

  19. @1. The police the woman was talking to were in plain clothes, so their number wouldn’t be displayed unless they got their id badges out. Which they evidently didn’t.

  20. Jaypee I gotta agree with you. Might does make right in the minds of people like this: If they suspect they could get an ass-kicking by pulling this kind of crap, it’ll take the righteousness right out of ’em and they will proceed very carefully prior to anything like this.

  21. This is what the UK’s slavishness to authority and the idea of security at any cost has gotten it.

  22. The issue of the filming is hardly the core issue here, I’m sorry to say! Did anyone READ the article? From paragraph 2:

    Lawyers for Gemma Atkinson, a 27-year-old who was detained after filming police officers conduct a routine stop and search on her boyfriend, believe her case is the latest example of how police are misusing counterterrorism powers to restrict photography.

    A routine stop and search???? What has England come to?

  23. Cops who refuse to identify themselves or provide their badge number are nothing more or less than common thugs.

    Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, who was arrested, released, and had the charges dropped provided two photo IDs with his address and Harvard affiliation.

    As the NY Times reported, “According to Professor Ogletree, Professor Gates said he showed the responding officer, Sgt. James Crowley, photo identification, but he (Crowley) did not believe Professor Gates lived at the home. Frustrated, Professor Gates asked for Sgt. Crowley’s name and badge number, which he refused to give.”

    Was Sgt Crowley manifesting racism? I don’t know, but there is no excuse for a cop performing a legal arrest to refuse to identify himself. This is “merely” “assault under the color of authority.” Which is a serious crime.

    The responding officers were *not* undercover cops, so identifying themselves would not have compromised their ability to do their job in any way.

  24. In MA, you can’t record police unless the police notice you are recording them.
    “Massachusetts and a number of other states prevent citizens from recording police officers’ conversations, even within citizens’ own homes. Massachusetts itself broadly prohibits the willful “secret[] record[ing]” of “any wire or oral communication” by any citizen without the consent of all parties to the communication. (11) Accordingly, Massachusetts’s highest court has refused to exempt citizens who record police officers, even when the recording captures alleged police misconduct. (12)”

  25. “… all but one of them refused to identify themselves to her. ”

    That, for me, is the kicker.

    Many years ago, when John Major was the PM, and I was fresh-faced young whipper-snapper, I used to help monitor the behaviour of the police at public demonstrations. If any of them acted outside of the law, were violent or wrongfully arrested people, we would calmly note their ID numbers and pursue them through the IPCC if necessary. It was, however, unheard of for anyone other than the TSG not to wear ID badges. The TSG were, charitably, evil scum and we did our best to contain them when we could. Ordinary police were identifiable though.

    Today, all that has changed, and it seems the MET thinks it’s OK to have anonymous police officers on the beat. That is total bullshit. Refusing to identify yourself when performing a public duty should be subject to fducking JAIL.

  26. For everyone who didn’t sit through a really boring criminal law exam a few years ago:

    In the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) which governs the police’s duties in England and Wales –

    s.1(3): If a police officer suspects a person to have…prohibited items on them, he may stop and search them.
    s.2(2): Having detained a person it is the police officer’s duty to take reasonable steps before he conducts a search to bring to the person’s attention:
    s.2(2)(i) if the constable is not in uniform, documentary evidence that he is a constable; and
    (ii) whether he is in uniform or not, the matters specified in subsection (3) below;
    s.2(3)(a)the constable’s name and the name of the police station to which he is attached.

    As she wasn’t arrested before they tried to confiscate the phone, i assume that this is the bit that applies. For further fascinating reading the whole PACE act is here:

  27. The first time I read 1984, it terrified me.

    But when I read it again last year, it didn’t seem nearly so bad, I’m used to half of the stuff in that book by now.

  28. Reminder: This incident is dated before the Met sent round their “btw guys, photography is not a crime” memo.

    It’s the suck, but it could well be the end of the suck.

  29. if someone tells me they are a cop and refuses to prove it, I treat them as any other mugger.

  30. To film the police, or write about them, speak about them, or *acknowledge their existence* could put them in danger, so the best way to keep police safe is to point out that they don’t exist.

    There are no police in the UK or in the world. If there were any police in the world, it would put them at risk if we admitted it. Only a terrorist would do that. I’m not a terrorist. Therefore, there are no police in the world. Q.E.D.

  31. Okay, we need live upload cameras stat.

    Stop recording, it sets up another ip address upload location, so there’s no way of confiscating anything other than the camera. or the person.

  32. @2, 19, 34

    I’ve been thinking about something like this lately. The ubiquity of video recording devices (and the existence of the big network) is one of our only defenses against growing governmental powers. Grass roots surveillance. gonna check out shozu for sure, but it seems like more could be built in. ie encryption, the use of tor to make destination anonymous, etc.

    i’m not much of a hacker, but this is something that NEEDS to get done. somebody run with it.

  33. re: #27 Deckard86,

    I believe that refers only to audio recording, which is largely illegal without giving notice of being recorded. Photography/videography is generally legal on public property, and certainly on one’s own private property. There are numerous “Photographer’s Rights” web sites and info available, (for example,

    I wonder what people would think if you put a printed EULA type notice on your doors “By entering these premises you agree to be photographed, video recorded and audio recorded….”

  34. Automatic uploading has been here for years.

    Phones with the Nokia S60 OS come with (or can download) Nokia’s free “Share Online” application for easily uploading images/video to Flickr, Ovi, etc. Works with Cellular data or WiFi, and can automatically GeoTag on models with GPS.

    If your camera takes SD cards, you could use the “Eye-Fi” wireless SD card — looks like a normal card to your camera or a cop, but will automatically upload photos as they’re taken.

    Drawback to the Eye-Fi is that you may not be near a hotspot. Workaround would be to carry in your shoulder bag either a mobile WiFi repeater or a mini PC that can snag the photos from the Eye-Fi and store them locally for later upload. That way the cops can smash your camera and steal your memory card, but you don’t lose the pictures or video.

  35. Why aren’t uniforms (shirts, jackets) like sports jerseys, with the officer’s name, department name, and a unique number within that department?

  36. She shouldn’t have used a terrorist cell.

    Seriously, who would hand over a phone to any crazy mugger just claiming he/she was police but wouldn’t prove it?

  37. MadMadamMin (29)

    My understanding is that those restrictions no longer apply in London. Under the new anti-terrorism laws, in times of raised terrorism alert levels the police can stop and search anyone they like without giving a reason. And since London is constantly at an increased level of terrorism alert, these powers apply over the whole city, all the time.

    Several of my friends have been stopped for “routine searches”, with no suggestion that the search has anything to do with their behaviour. Although the sample size is too small to draw conclusions, I think it’s worth noting that none of the people I know who were searched are white, except for one mediterranian guy who was heavily tanned at the time.

    It’s also becoming increasingly common to have to go past sniffer dogs to use the Tube network. I’ve been past three teams in the past few months, and this was in broad daylight in business areas, not night-time by a concert venue or one of London’s more drug-friendly neighbourhoods. Whenever the sniffer dogs are there I see an unusual number of adults hanging around in the station, who I assume are plain clothed police.

  38. right hands up who predicted something like this when this ammendment showed up? If you’re hand isn’t up why not?

    Also, anyone who claims to be a police officer but refuses to prove it is now Impersonating a Police Officer, which is illegal. If they are one they have to prove it if asked. That’s kind of how the law works.

  39. This law is how old and it’s already going to get tested by the Courts? I find this very encouraging, especially if the Po-Lice spend a ton of money dealing with all the complaints.

    If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.

  40. ook ook bobbie, ook ook

    “The reports were most critical of the stop-and-search policy, which saw all protesters made to line up in airport-style checkpoints to be searched going to and from the camp. Commanders, the review reveals, initially told officers that “personal grounds must be justified and no blanket power approach is to be taken” when searching under section 1 of Pace. But they were then told “that the camp is illegal and the intention of the camp is to commit damage, hence the grounds for searching attendees to the camp is made”, which resulted in almost every activist being searched multiple times.

    The reports said this resulted in a “vicious cycle”, “moving non-activists closer to resistance and violence on account of tactics they saw hard to accept as justified by the police. With this developing crowd dynamic of hostility, intelligence then presented a worsening picture, which provided more grounds to search camp attendees.”

    A list of more than 2,000 possessions taken from protesters, released under the Freedom of Information Act, revealed that, in a supposed attempt to prevent activists causing injury or taking a nearby river, officers took packets of balloons, tents, a clown’s outfit, camping equipment, cycle helmets and bike locks, bin bags, party poppers, leaflets and soap.

    The NPIA debrief was particularly critical of the failure of officers to write legibly. “The fact that so many forms were submitted in such poor quality also raises questions regarding the effectiveness of supervision and the overall knowledge of policing powers, which was felt to be lacking.”

  41. No power has been granted to a group of people without that power being abused. Ever.

    It would be nice if people would think about this BEFORE randomly granting powers just to get votes for being “tough on crime”.

    Would also help if more people realized that “tough on crime” usually means “tough on people who are suspected of a crime, but will be found to be entirely innocent”.

  42. They do indeed give police identifying numbers. But in the U.K., those numbers are on the tops of the shoulders, and most women are shorter than most men, so it’s not easy to see the numbers.

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