I'm finding remarkably little commentary on this in the U.K. press—perhaps because it's hard to search for—but, on Tuesday, the official site of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown offered an official response to an e-petition protesting the unreasonable oppression of photographers in the U.K.
As I read the document—the language of which has a pretty hard plating of official blandness—it's essentially saying, "Right, we hear you, but it's terrorism we're dealing with here, so bugger off." Adding, at the end, in a slightly more conciliatory vein, that if you're nabbed up you're welcome to make excuses for yourself if you like—which might do you some good. Or not.
I'm not sure whether this is a fair characterization.
If anybody has an opinion about the response, or has found an interesting one online, please let us know.
(Thanks to numerous tipsters, including Simon Conner and Michael Carrithers)
Featured Comment by Chuck Albertson: "Sir Humphrey couldn't have drafted a more opaque response, viz: 'Well Minister, if you ask me for a straight answer, then I shall say that, as far as we can see, looking at it by and large, taking one thing with another in terms of the average of departments, then in the final analysis it is probably true to say, that at the end of the day, in general terms, you would probably find that, not to put too fine a point on it, there probably wasn't very much in it one way or the other. As far as one can see, at this stage.'"
Featured Comment by David Talmage: "Your next civil disobedience T-shirt: innocent tourist or other sight-seer."
Featured Comment by David Miller: "Getting well into my grey panther years, I summoned up a bit of long-languishing young revolutionary spirit on a recent five week walking holiday around England—I thought it would be a bit of a lark to get myself arrested for photographing a policeman, and set out to snap everything in uniform from Southampton to Carlisle. Complete waste of time: none of the coppers so much as raised an eyebrow, and when I began to ask them about the law I couldn't find a single one who had heard of it. 'Sounds a bit daft to me,' was the usual response. And during our stay we saw several televised news items which displayed the constabulary in a far-from-flattering light. When it comes down to it, this may be a bit of a tempest in a teapot."
Featured Comment by Calvin Amari: "I know folks talk funny over there, but this frankly seems like rather noxious guff for the Government to fart in the face of our dwile flonking photographer friends. 'An officer making an arrest under section 58A must reasonably suspect that the information is of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.' Note that the photographer in this weasel-worded sentence need not necessarily refer to the 'person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.' Even if the photographer is taken to be nothing more than a doddering tourist with a disposable camera, the focus (so to speak) seems to be on the subject of the photograph—or, more broadly still, on a photograph of that general kind—and whether it, in turn, 'likely' could be 'useful' to a terrorist. 'Legitimate journalistic activity (such as covering a demonstration for a newspaper) is likely to constitute such an excuse. Similarly, an innocent tourist or other sight-seer taking a photograph of a police officer is likely to have a reasonable excuse.' Likely?!? This plainly means that a journalist engaging in 'legitimate' activity or an 'innocent' tourist (under some unspecified circumstances) might not have a legitimate defense to an arrest."