16-Year-Old Freelance Photographer Stopped and Detained in London

Over the weekend 16-year-old freelance photographer Jules Mattsson was photographing police cadets in an Armed Forces Day parade in London when he was approached by police and told that he needed parental permission to photograph the cadets.

The British Journal of Photography writes,

According an audio recording of the incident, the police officer argued, at first, that it was illegal to take photographs of children, before adding that it was illegal to take images of army members, and, finally, of police officers. When asked under what legislation powers he was being stopped, the police officer said that Mattsson presented a threat under anti-terrorism laws. The photographer was pushed down on stairs and detained until the end of the parade and after the intervention of three other photographers.

Mattsson, having been stopped by police before, started recording audio of the incident on his cell phone in an attempt to capture the arguments that police use against photographers. In the recording, an officer can be heard stating that they didn’t need a law to detain Mattsson.

This reminded me a little of the confrontation between a photog and policeman in Los Angeles that we wrote about earlier this month. However, in that case many commenters thought that the photographer had crossed a boundary and was intentionally provoking the officer in order to create a scene.

What are your thoughts on this new incident?

(via The Independent)

  • Ross Hall

    This keeps on happening in the UK. It seems that a badly thought out piece of UK legislation has been poorly implemented and the Police (to be fair to them) are struggling with something that is so open to interpretation they do not know where to stand.

    From the recording it sounds like the copper simply wanted to keep the area clear so the parade could form up (not uncommon) and instead of explaining that purpose waded in heavy handedly. Also from the recording it sounds like the photog was being confrontational in tone, which maybe added to the situation.

  • Ryan

    I think it got out of hand on both sides.

    Having listened to the full recording, it's seems to be a case of 50-50. The police seemed to be pushing the cameraman, and the cameraman, who's bravado and frustration with being questioned and restricted, couldn't be tactful and negotiate terms that with witch he could accomplish his work.

    I heard one officer say, that he could take pictures of the parade, but he needed to control certain areas. (Even if in a public location, doesn't it seem reasonable that there may be areas that are not fit for the public?) If I went into a farmers market on public grounds, there may still be areas that are unsafe and that are quartered off to prevent injury to either the person entering or the people within doing their job. Just my thoughts.

  • Razorblade Grin

    “What law are you detaining me under?”
    “You know what? I consider you a terrorist under the terrorism act.”
    Wow – It amazes me is how the British government can put a video camera on every corner to record its citizens, but a 16 year old freelance photographer is treated like a criminal for photographing a parade. Coppers should be glad they're not

  • Daniel Bento

    I'm not from UK, but from Portugal. But I always had this question. Where can we find “a document” with the specific “photography law” for reading? Is this… If I took my camera and travel to outside my country… How can I be sure that I'm not against the law?

  • Chakko

    If they don't want anyone photographing a parade, then they should parade in private. A parade is a display FFS

  • Mike Brown

    I have this document for UK law:

  • Achoice

    Different laws for every country. But yes – you have a point – we need a reference covering (as many as possible) contries different laws regarding photography.
    In sweden – you are allowed to photo everywhere and anyone. In private property you may be escorted away/out. Also not allowed to photo “secure places” such as military bases etc.

  • Brian

    he may have had the right to take photos of the parade, but this seems like yet another case of a photographer intentionally aggrevating the officer, rather then just simply move somewhere else as he was asked. I don't understand why he felt the need to create such a scene. It pretty much ensures the officer needs to react in order to keep the scene calm.

  • Morphixx

    allow me a question: if the police doesn't have to have a law, what are they there for, what is their job, if not keeping the law?

  • Steven Maniscalco

    The police alway know where to stand on ambiguous laws…namely, any damn place they please.

  • Erikneves

    Never leave home without it!

  • Jules Mattsson

    Briefly in my defence, the area where this took place was full of bystanders and I was not told I was in anybody's way until after I was stopped, I wasn't told anything about obstruction until after the police had exhausted their initial points of offences I had committed. I was standing next to a wall on a pavement that was clear of people with bystanders in the closed road, so when I was moved around the corner I was in nobody's way. Take a look at… for my version of events :)

  • sidha

    When you have the right to do something, should there be negotiation of terms? Generally I don't think so. The police (or anyone) can't expect privacy in a public place. End of story.

  • david alliet

    Unlike that guy in Los Angeles, this photographer seems like he's trying to get some serious work done documenting a public event and wasn't trying to bait anybody into a conflict. So, yeah, i take this way more serious. The part where the photog got shoved down some stairs was especially disturbing. If the guy knows who the officer was who did the shoving, he should find out if there's a way to report that.

  • K. Praslowicz

    I used a reference to educate myself on US law. Made sure I had it down in my head real good. First time I got stopped by the police I was telling the officer what my rights as a photographer were. The officer told me I can't trust what lawyers write about laws.

    I swear. Its like trying to kick water uphill sometimes.

  • Erikneves

    You're just a freelance photog.

    Now this happened last week to a reporter of a major Brazilian network (Band TV). The show he's in is about exposing politics wrongdoings with a heavy dose of humour, even mocking them most of the time. The show (CQC, Custe o Que Custar = Whatever It Takes) aired last Monday, June 28th, 2010.

    He was doing a piece about a public primary school that sits right next to a slope. There's a sign that says the work to stop that slope from sliding during heavy rain should have started six months ago, but nothing happened. Except for the fact that now there's a truck parking lot right at the edge of the cliff. Those kids are in real danger.

    He went to talk to the headmaster of the school, and she could not give any real answers on what she has done to try to convince the city to start the construction. And she thinks the kids are safe because when it rains, they are not allowed to go to the playground next to the slope.

    Then the police comes and tries to stop him from taping. He was on public space all the time, never entering the school or any private places, during the interview. What happens seems universal. I bet you can relate to it, Jules.

    Part 1:
    Part 2:

    (Yes, there was really a small dog barking, to add to the excitement.)

    The “action” starts almost at the end of part 1. On part 2, you'll see him being arrested and taken to the Police Station. Then you'll see him interviewing (with an appointment) the City Mayor, who was a former Brazilian Minister of Work (Lula government), telling him about the school. He said, defensively, that the construction hadn't started because they can't – the slope is saturated with rain water. When asked why the engineers didn't protect the slope from the rain with some plastic cover, he, defensively said he was not there to talk about engineering! And told the kids are safe because the playground is closed!

    When told about the police aggression, he said the reporter looked quite fine for someone who was beaten by the police. When the reporter wants to show him the recorded images and the bruises, the Mayor ends the interview.


  • Chris

    He didn't cause a scene, the police did. The boy did nothing wrong.

  • Bruck

    Wow… kay, so I guess it's fine to stand like, in front of parade and such… yeah.

    In this case, I think this kid handled himself completely and totally inappropriately. This kid was definitely disturbing the peace.

  • Cliff

    The kid was not standing in front of a parade. He was taking photographs of people preparing to participate in a parade. He acted quite maturely for someone who was first illegally told not to do his job and then, when he protested that he had every right to do his job and asked for evidence that he was violating a law, listened to the police concoct imaginary offenses one after another.

    The police were abusing their authority, preventing a person who posed no harm to anyone from doing his job. And while the half-dozen or more officers were roughing up this young man, who was watching the crowd to see if there were any real terrorists making a move out there?

    The officers were disturbing the peace by assaulting a citizen for pointing out that he was well within his rights to be doing what he was doing. Bruck, if you find that behavior by a police officer tolerable, then you had best be totally meek whenever an officer questions you. Do whatever they tell you to do, and if in spite of your meekness you still end up in jail, accept that you must have been doing something wrong, or the nice officer wouldn't have arrested you.

  • Andreas Bexell

    Seems to me like yet another case of a police officer intentionally aggrevating a photographer

  • Susanp

    > “And while the half-dozen or more officers were roughing up this young man, who was watching the crowd to see if there were any real terrorists making a move out there?”

    Isn't that their point ? That he was wasting their time when they were trying to do real work ?

  • Jogn Doe

    The kid got what he deserved. A crystal clear case of provocation, which fought back.

  • Britt fan

    I think these situations increases in number, due to the fact that people in Britain get “smacked” by their parents when they are young, and then later in life they start a career within the Police Department.

  • Joshua Verbrugge

    retarded cops. Good kid to be standing up to tho police!

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  • Rudolf Rainer Asuncion

    eversince the enactment of the international anti-terrorism law, law-enforcers from all over have assumed that everyone, yeah even a 12 yr old! IS treated as a terrorist until proven otherwise. they were able to invert the laws that are supposed to PROTECT the people under the guise of anti-terrorism.. so it's really a hard time for us nowadays to just point and shoot, pun intended…

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  • Vesco6

    A little common sense would go along way, by all. Rights vs “protectors” it works both ways. On the other hand, to coin a phrase, “Up the Pigs”, lads!

  • Guest

    I was approached by a policeman in Victoria Station when I visited London in 2008. All I was doing was photographing from an upper level the people criss-crossing the floor below. He did ask to see my photos and fortunately did not ask me to delete them. I was aware before I traveled there of the hypersensitivity towards photographers taking photos in public places so was not caught off guard when he approached me. I responded in a friendly manner and he was courteous with me and after a short exchange let me go on my way. Unfortunately this issue is not going away and it may get to where travelers and photographers will not be able to take cameras wherever they go in the future!

  • darylcheshire

    I am a rail enthusiast, I could well be taking photos of railway stations. In Victoria Australia, you needed a permit which was easy to get but this is no longer required.
    I want to travel to the UK soon and take railway photos