Confrontation With Security

Darren Turner

I was confronted by security man with attitude on the evening of 27th November on a visit the Cardiff bay area. I had arranged to meet up with a friend for a spot of night time photography, we are not professionals, we don’t sell our images we are just very enthusiastic amateurs photographers minding our own business & enjoying our hobby taking photos at dusk of the amazing looking Cardiff bay with a its amazing mix of old & new buildings and reflections.

We had been wandering around for a approx. 3 hours when at approx. 5.30pm as we were taking some photos we noted the presence of someone behind us for at least 5 mins, he never spoke so we never acknowledged him. When he did eventually Speak he started to quiz us in a very sarcastic and obnoxious manner (as if we had done something wrong or stolen something) as to what we was doing, are we working, who for, why are we here, how long you have been here & do you have permission. We where not aware we needed permission to take a photo but seeing as it such an extreme & rare hobby then maybe we did.....!!

I did question as why we are not allowed, he didn't seem to know why, just that we couldn't, i also asked to where the signs or notice boards are if permission was required, his reply was the signs are in the same place as the toilet signs………there aren't any, we are not sure if again he was being sarcastic or trying to be funny or if he was serious at this point either way it didn’t impress us.

The bay was very quiet that evening yet almost everyone who we did come across had a camera, tripod or camera phone & where taking photos. We are very conscious of our surroundings for both security reasons and that never get in the way or block access when out taking our photos, Our tripods where between us and the fence at the water’s edge along the row of restaurant near Terra Nova (about 10 meters behind us across a paved boulevard / walkway) pointing across the bay towards the Norwegian church at the point the security guard arrived we would have been there a maximum of 5 mins while we take a few photos then moved on if we hadn't been stopped.

We consider ourselves well-travelled in many city's around the uk and as of yet have never been stopped or been approached by security in the past telling us we cannot take photos even when down in the bay area many times over the years. We were even taking photos of the senned (welsh goverment) building without any issues which if photography was a real risky hobby surely that would attract more attention than taking photos across the bay towards the Norwegian church.

My first thoughts where maybe this is privately owned development of restaurant & bar in this particular small area of Cardiff bay hence they had their own crazy rules. After lots of emails to and from with their centre management.

Hello Mr Turner.

I apologise for the unprofessional manner I in which you were dealt with. The incident will be investigated and the relevant security officer dealt with accordingly.

I am fully aware your photography was not for professional purposes but it may be informative for me to explain why we have a policy concerning professional photography. As Mermaid Quay is privately owned there are the obvious commercial reasons i.e. professional using Mermaid Quay in commercial photography. We also have an obligation to our tenants to ensure their commercial concerns are addressed and considered. If and when professional/commercial photography is allowed at Mermaid Quay we, as landlord representatives, are also required to ensure that all parties concerned have the relevant and required H&S documentation, i.e. Risk Assessments, Method Statements, Insurances, etc.

The use of tripods also relates to the H&S aspect of photography. As Mermaid Quay can get busy we need to ensure private persons using tripods are made aware of the risks of using a tripod in a public place. I understand that to an obviously seasoned and travelled photographer such as yourself this may seem as an irritation and unnecessary but unfortunately we have to consider all walks of life.

I once again apologise for the obviously unprofessional manner in which this information was relayed to you. I will be taking the necessary action.

Centre Manager

this didn't actually answer my questions so i was quite blunt on my next email, basically saying can we or can we not use tripods after all Cardiff council & the harbour & water ways have all informed me there are no rules or regulation in preventing the use of camera or tripods anywhere in the bay area.

Hello Mr Turner.

Persons using tripods for photography at Mermaid Quay are allowed to use them but generally security would advise them to be aware of the H&S trip hazard they can cause. As I stated in my initial reply, Mermaid Quay is private property and as such our policies are determined by us

We, as Centre Management, are also very aware that we have guests and tourists that want to take photographs and our policies are designed to encourage this. The security officer concerned will have the necessary training/action taken in line with this policy.

Centre Manager

eventually i did get a straight answer out of them, we can use tripods, i guess this security guy was a jobs-worth, hopefully i have woken them all up and that they train their security better for future people who may visit the bay with tripods.
if that policy of confrontation by beefy security guard is designed to encourage tourists that want to take photos well i cant see anyone ever taking a photo again down in Cardiff bay

sorry for waffling on a little but the above may be of some interest
ok, so yes, it's allowed, but they frown upon it, but they make the rules so it's allowed even though they frown upon it because the rule they made up said it's allowed? that doesn't sound like a very professional management centre.

what a jerk rent-a-cop. sounds like management isn't much better with their explanation.
Nah, Daz, no need for apologies, I think that this is a valid talking point.

I have recorded the police whilst arresting a member of public as I believed at the time that they were in no fault, or had any reason to be.
I was threatened with arrest, and was stated by the arrogant officer that I 'couldn't record' police fulfilling their duties as it was an 'offence'.......
"Under what common law jurisdiction is this an offence officer?" I asked...
"I don't care, is illegal to record the police".... (Officer)
"But I'm in a public space, surely I can record anything as there is no law to prevent me from doing so, especially as I am in a public area"......
"I don't care, put that camera (iPhone) down as you will be arrested" (officer)
"Again, for what?"......... By standing a ground, it soon paid off.

Anyway, on your note, they have clearly admitted that there is nothing wrong with your presence on the pier.
So long you carry that letter around for the next time you visit....... You be fine.

I have sooooooooo much more to say on the matter of trespassing and regulations , that I'm just going to hold myself there and see what others have to say..... 3)
My experience is that on private ground - however stupid their rules, you have to abide by them

In public areas - you can politely tell them that you'll continue taking photos - and by all means get the police if you think I'm breaking the law

I always try to be super polite and upbeat with people - who probably have a crappy job and are bored out of their skulls

But I do have a low tolerance for people giving me BS or attitude

As Dan says - carry the letter with you, useful ammo if there's a next time

Generally - things have become more challenging since 9-11 and 7/7

Might be worth printing out and keeping this with you as well

Police statements and guidance
Official police statements on dealing with photographers.
(Updated 14 Dec 2009)

In response to growing public and professional concern, the police forces have started issuing statements on how they will deal with photographers. We'll archive them here for reference.

Guidance issued to MPS officers and staff re stop and search photo policy
14th December 2009.

John Yates, Assistant Commissioner Specialist Operations, has today reminded all MPS officers and staff that people taking photographs in public should not be stopped and searched unless there is a valid reason.

The message, which has been circulated to all Borough Commanders and published on the MPS intranet, reinforces guidance previously issued around powers relating to stop and search under the Terrorism Act 2000.

Guidance on the issue will continue to be included in briefings to all operational officers and staff.

Mr Yates said: "People have complained that they are being stopped when taking photographs in public places. These stops are being recorded under Stop and Account and under Section 44 of TACT. The complaints have included allegations that people have been told that they cannot photograph certain public buildings, that they cannot photograph police officers or PCSOs and that taking photographs is, in itself, suspicious."

"Whilst we must remain vigilant at all times in dealing with suspicious behaviour, staff must also be clear that:
- there is no restriction on people taking photographs in public places or of any building other than in very exceptional circumstances
- there is no prohibition on photographing front-line uniform staff
- the act of taking a photograph in itself is not usually sufficient to carry out a stop.

"Unless there is a very good reason, people taking photographs should not be stopped."

"An enormous amount of concern has been generated about these matters. You will find below what I hope is clear and unequivocal guidance on what you can and cannot do in respect of these sections. This complements and reinforces previous guidance that has been issued. You are reminded that in any instance where you do have reasonable suspicion then you should use your powers under Section 43 TACT 2000 and account for it in the normal way."

"These are important yet intrusive powers. They form a vital part of our overall tactics in deterring and detecting terrorist attacks. We must use these powers wisely. Public confidence in our ability to do so rightly depends upon your common sense. We risk losing public support when they are used in circumstances that most reasonable people would consider inappropriate."

The guidance:

Section 43 Terrorism Act 2000

Section 43 is a stop and search power which can be used if a police officer has reasonable suspicion that a person may be a terrorist. Any police officer can:
- Stop and search a person who they reasonably suspect to be a terrorist to discover whether they have in their possession anything which may constitute evidence that they are a terrorist.
- View digital images contained in mobile telephones or cameras carried by the person searched to discover whether the images constitute evidence they are involved in terrorism.
- Seize and retain any article found during the search which the officer reasonably suspects may constitute evidence that the person is a terrorist, including any mobile telephone or camera containing such evidence.

The power, in itself, does not permit a vehicle to be stopped and searched.

Section 44 Terrorism Act 2000

Section 44 is a stop and search power which can be used by virtue of a person being in a designated area.

Where an authority is in place, police officers in uniform, or PCSOs IF ACCOMPANIED by a police officer can:
- Stop and search any person; reasonable grounds to suspect an individual is a terrorist are not required. (PCSOs cannot search the person themselves, only their property.)
- View digital images contained in mobile telephones or cameras carried by a person searched, provided that the viewing is to determine whether the images contained in the camera or mobile telephone are connected with terrorism.
- Seize and retain any article found during the search which the officer reasonably suspects is intended to be used in connection with terrorism.

General points

Officers do not have the power to delete digital images, destroy film or to prevent photography in a public place under either power. Equally, officers are also reminded that under these powers they must not access text messages, voicemails or emails.

Where it is clear that the person being searched under Sections 43 or 44 is a journalist, officers should exercise caution before viewing images as images acquired or created for the purposes of journalism may constitute journalistic material and should not be viewed without a Court Order.

If an officer's rationale for effecting a stop is that the person is taking photographs as a means of hostile reconnaissance, then it should be borne in mind that this should be under the Section 43 power. Officers should not default to the Section 44 power in such instances simply because the person is within one of the designated areas.

For more information visit
cheers for that DD & Chris very useful, i to have low tolerance for to$$ers, i kept quite and obliged as i didn't want arresting (after the security guy may have ended up in the water somehow :p)
You would think by now this issue would have been put to bed as there must have been many situations where police and security were in the wrong and their actions caused a backlash in some way. One thing I would say is that you should be careful with the use of the word reasonable in those guidelines. A solicitor once told me that in law the word reasonable is the most unreasonable word as what exactly is reasonable is often ambiguous and open to interpretation.
I had a similar encounter in London UK during last summer. A very polite but stern and well dressed security guard tried to stop me taking pictures off the Strand in a populated square. He told me not to photograph because it was private property. He asked me my name, what purpose I had and then briskly told me to leave. Well I gave him my best smile and a little laughter and asked in return for his credentials, under what rules and regulations he was working, trying to stop a foreigner and a member of the press from working and told him politely to return to his bosses whom he steadily referred to, to tell them to again study the law. He did not believe I was a foreigner and asked me to show him my passport. Then I finally pulled out my press card and told him I was working on an article called, " A sunny day in London " My press card is of old age now, but boy it's handy. The article was true enough though. I got no more problems and carried on.
The only problem I've encountered is using a camera in an art gallery. Some galleries allow it, including the National Gallery of Scotland, the main art gallery in Edinburgh. They have no concerns at all, although I haven't tried using a tripod yet - I imagine they would regard that as a health and safety issue. But recently I was in the modern art gallery, and was asked, nay, told forcefully not to take photos, and I should delete any I had taken. I refused to delete anything, and pointed out that they had no powers to make me do so. I got the strong suspicion that this person was overstepping the mark, and when challenged backed down a fair bit. Not being the confrontational sort, I didn't push it any further, but I might write to them asking for clarity.

But it does raise an issue of taking photos within public buildings. Some of the exhibits belong to independent lenders, and THEY might well have a no-photography clause in the lending agreement. So not everything in a gallery belongs to the tax payer.

As you might have notice about my gallery shots, I'm usually far more interested in the building and space than in the art exhibits. That would be a difficult argument to win, though.
I recently had this problem pointed out to me Rob by a gallery owner when asked if I could shoot an opening night and I said no after being told I couldn't take photos at there previous exhibition (I was asked why I didn't ask to speak to him) I did shoot the opening night for them