Animated Documentary Explains The UK Terrorism Act and How it Affects Photogs

In response to September 11th and London Bombings, the UK drafted a series of Terrorism Acts, giving their officers certain rights they thought would help fight terrorism. This included a section (58a) added in 2008 that made it illegal to photograph or film a police officer if the footage was likely to be useful to a terrorist. The police’s interpretation of that section has since changed, but not before that “if” caused some newsworthy controversy.

This short animated documentary covers that controversy from the point of view of one of the act’s victims, Gemma Atkinson, who was assaulted by police in 2009 because she was filming them searching her boyfriend. It tells the story of the subsequent legal battle she went through trying to get the act changed and hold the police officers who were unnecessarily rough with her accountable.


Her own story ends, after many months of legal fees and back and forths, with an out of court settlement and a change to the law that, from her own experience, has done nothing to deter officers from abusing their powers.

Her efforts got the police guidelines regarding section 58a changed to allow the public to photograph officers during normal police activities. However, changing those guidelines hasn’t changed the actions of officers, and so she’s put together this documentary to tell her story and bring the Terrorism Act back into public awareness.

To hear her whole story and read more about that law and its implications, watch the video at the top or head over to the documentary’s website by clicking here.

(via Boing Boing)

  • Rob

    Great animation Gemma! Very informative!

  • Helk

    I have had similar treatment from the police but not quite assault. Somehow the police here think they are so above the hol polloi that they can harass you for that sort of thing. It really makes one angry. All I did was take a photo of a police car!

  • Kaveh Moravej

    Good job of bringing awareness to this issue. Police officers are like every other group though – while most might be decent and reasonable, you’re bound to get a few bad apples in the bunch that are going to abuse their powers.

    Vague guidance like “reasonable suspicion that you are a terrorist” can still be very subjective though, and opens the door to pretty much anyone and everyone being a potential terrorist.

  • Chris

    While summed up as a cartoon, this is very useful information to have. It goes to show the average snapper can fall foul of the law for no reason other than a copper is having a bad day.

    A good shout, thanks.

  • DafOwen

    More in-depth information on this and related UK issues can be found here :

  • Mansgame

    I skipped through most of the video, because well, it’s preaching to the choir, but I like the Commodore 64 ending credits!

  • Timmmeeeee

    Nice informative animated doc.

    Dont know how she feels over the fact her name is the same as that of a lingerie model based in England.

    Another interesting thing is that she is talking about photogs when in fact she was shooting a video using her phone. I believe clicking pictures and shooting videos are not the same thing. I also find it interesting lots of people with absolutely no photographic knowledge shoot pictures and videos in full auto mode using their phones or compact digicams and proudly call themselves photographers or videographers. There was a time when in order to become a photographer you needed to learn lots of things and countless hours of practising photography. Guess today with abundant cameras at your disposal one can bypass those initial steps.

    I believe the laws related to the ban on photographing policemen in UK had nothing to do with their privacy or personal rights but more to do with the fact some of them routinely go on undercover operations [such as infiltrating a potential terrorist gang] wearing everyday clothes and if videos of them wearing their uniform appeared online [especially in a video which becomes popular or goes viral] there is a risk of their getting identified and in the process jeopardizing their operations.

    There is also the view that some policemen indulge in brutal force against the person they are arresting and if this were to be filmed and handed over to the authorities there is a risk they might get suspended or in some rare case dismissed from their jobs.