Can you be Arrested Under Prevention of Terrorism Act for NOT Taking a Photo?

Sometimes it feels like photographers are fighting an uphill battle against law enforcement. The irony in a member of the police requesting the public to stop taking photographs always baffles me. It’s akin to withholding evidence isn’t it? (Delete the picture and the evidence that was the picture is now gone.) Anyway, case in hand, a grumpy cyclist met a naive pseudo policeman and an argument happened.

Perhaps the tenuity of this particular non-story is the most interesting aspect. In this instance we have three mitigating factors. A cyclist as a passenger in a car, a police vehicle being driven by a citizen or PCSO (UK’s answer to a community police force with no real power) and a photograph that was never actually taken.

Seriously, no photograph. We can show you where it happened on Google Maps though:


John Stevenson, an avid Cambridgeshire cyclist who writes for was passing this particular spot on his way to choir practice with his girlfriend and her children when he spotted a police vehicle badly parked in a bicycle lane. Not letting the opportunity pass they stopped the car and he got out to take a photograph of the alleged offence on his phone.

Except the photograph didn’t happen.

I couldn’t resist getting out to take a photo of the police car. If a car parked in a bike lane, forcing cyclists out into the traffic on a busy road isn’t parked badly, what is? As it happens I didn’t get the shot because I’m a total numpty with a phone camera.

This is where the police officer (who isn’t a police officer) turned up to question Stevenson and threaten him with terrorism charges after refusing to give over his name, address and details. All for a photograph that wasn’t taken of a police car that was just badly parked by a cyclist who wasn’t on his bike. According to Stevenson’s blog post a small scuffle did break out but thankfully his freedom was left intact after the hobby bobby saw sense.

Phogotraphy‘s aim is to bring you stories lurking in the realm of photon based imagery production you may otherwise not have heard. We like to share stores and offer insight and opinion that comes straight out of left field. We’re not entirely sure what this was though. Non-story of the week or a crisis averted? Maybe just a slow day in the office.

The PCSO’s sergeant has since contacted Stevenson about the incident to apologize on his behalf and confirm that he should not have been threatened under terrorism offences for attempting to take a photograph of something in a public space.


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