Photography In Public Places & Data Protection Act

A reference page for links concerning photography by members of the public in public places, and DPA considerations.


“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”


Taking Photographs in a Public Place :: This is not illegal and there is no law saying that you cannot take photos including (or even photos of) other people’s children. An offence is deemed to be if the photos are indecent. Also the landowner’s permission is needed to take photos from private land.

No one has the right to ask the photographer to stop, to ask for a copy of the photos or to get them to delete photos unless it is in relation to indecent images.

As police we have to be careful to get the balance right between protecting children and demonising those who are doing nothing wrong. If a caller has any legitimate concern about someone taking photos they should call Avon and Somerset Constabulary on 101, if urgent call 999, but if they are merely taking photos of a public area from another public area and there happen to be children in the photos, then we shouldn’t automatically assume that it is being done for sexual gratification. If someone is consistently doing it, then there could be an issue of harassment if the same subject is being used against their will.


If you’re on a public right of way – such as a public pavement, footpath or public highway – you’re free to take photographs for personal and commercial use so long as you’re not causing an obstruction to other users or falling foul of anti-Terrorism laws or even the Official Secrets Act (frankly, this one is unlikely)


Do I need permission to photograph someone in public?
No. If you are standing in a public space, you do not need permission to take their photograph

Can I be prosecuted for harrassment if I take pictures without permission?
Very unlikely. In UK law harassment is defined as a course of conduct which amounts to harassment of another which the defendant knows, or ought to know amounts to harassment of another. Taking a single picture or even several pictures is unlikely to be considered a course of conduct. [legal opinion sought]


Photographs taken purely for personal use are exempt from the Data Protection Act.

The Data Protection Act mainly covers personal information held electronically. [Me – since a vehicle number plate contains no personal information, it is difficult to see how DPA applies in taking photos of vehicles]

[pdf download]


In 2010 Chief Constable Andrew Trotter wrote to colleagues outlining the points for police to keep in mind when dealing with photographers in public places

“There are no powers prohibiting the taking of photographs., film or digital images in a public place. Therefore members of the public and press should not be prevented from doing so”,d.d2k

[pdf download]

This is pretty useful, so here’s a picture of the (highlighted) letter as well, courtesy of @AdamShawBiz on twitter

ACPO CAG Guidance For Photographers


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