Taking photographs in a public space

It is not illegal to take photographs or video footage in public places unless it is for criminal or terrorist purposes.


There will be places where you have access as a member of the public, but will have to ask permission or may be prevented altogether from taking images. These could include stately homes, museums, churches, shopping malls, railway stations/airports and council/government buildings.

If a person is seen taking photos outside a police station/mosque/chemical factory/facility/military base then this should be reported to the police. Call 101 while it is happening or complete the 101 non-emergency form with a description of the person, time and date and why you think it was suspicious if it happened in the past. All calls/information will be taken seriously.

Freedom to photograph and film

Members of the public and the media do not need a permit to film or photograph in public places and police have no power to stop them filming or photographing incidents or police personnel.

There is no law preventing people from taking photographs in public. This includes taking photos of other people's children. However if you take photos of other people's children and it is reported to us we may treat this as suspicious behaviour and depending on the circumstances would create an incident log.

It is an offence to take indecent photographs.

Obscene Publications Act 1959 section 1

"For the purposes of this Act an article shall be deemed to be obscene if its effect or (where the article comprises two or more distinct items) the effect of any one of its items is, if taken as a whole, such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it."

Be considerate of others feelings when taking images

If you are taking photographs from private land, you need to have the land owner's permission.

Taking of a photo of a person where they can expect privacy (inside their home or garden) is likely to cause a breach of privacy laws. It would be appropriate and would avoid unnecessary complications if you ask the person for permission.

The taking of photographs of an individual without their consent is a civil matter.

Photography and Section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000

Officers have the power to stop and search a person who they reasonably suspect to be a terrorist. The purpose of the stop and search is to discover whether that person has in their possession anything which may constitute evidence that they are a terrorist.

Officers have the power to view digital images contained in mobile telephones or cameras carried by a person searched under S43 of the Terrorism Act 2000 to discover whether the images constitute evidence that the person is involved in terrorism. Officers also have the power to seize and retain any article found during the search which the officer reasonably suspects may constitute evidence that the person is a terrorist. This includes any mobile telephone or camera containing such evidence.

Officers do not have the power to delete digital images or destroy film at any point during a search. Deletion or destruction may only take place following seizure if there is a lawful power (such as a court order) that permits such deletion or destruction.

Report it

To report your concern about someone taking potentially indecent photographs fill in the 101 non-emergency form or visit your local police station. If you witness or know indecent images are being taken of children call 999.

If someone is consistently photographing you when you are in public against your will, it may be considered an issue of harassment or stalking. To find out more go to the Harassment and Stalking page.

Souce: MET Police, Avon and Somerset Police and Ask the Police


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