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law enforcement officials
european convention on human rights
17 Year Old Photographer Wins Undisclosed Amount In Police Settlement
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17 Year Old Photographer Wins Undisclosed Amount In Police Settlement

Nearly a year and a half ago, photojournalist Jules Mattsson was taking pictures of a cadet march in Romford, Essex, when he was arrested for breach of the peace. Police told Mattsson that he needed parental permission to photograph the military parade, which Mattsson protested, saying that he had every right to take pictures in a public place. At that point, Metropolitan Police took Mattsson into custody and told him that his photography of cadets taking part in the Armed Forces Day in June 2010 was 'anti-social behavior' and 'silly,' 'gay' and 'stupid.'

Fortunately for his future counsel, Mattsson recorded his verbal encounter with the police on his cell phone. He also uploaded it to You Tube where it has been viewed over 130,000 times. The law firm, Bindmans LLP, represented Mattsson throughout the sixteen month battle to defend his 'right to report, under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights 1998' which drew to a close last Friday when Met Police agreed to compensate Mattsson and pay for his legal fees.

Unfortunately, this isn't the first time abroad or in the United States that law enforcement officials have arrested a minor over digitally recording an event in a public place. As recently as March of this year, a high school student in New Jersey was arrested for taking video footage with his cell phone of officers responding to an incident on a transit bus. For this reason, it is extremely important that photographers educate themselves about what they can and cannot film, especially in a public place, prior to doing so.

For Americans, the ACLU has a great resource on their webpage that highlights these rights, including:

  • What you're allowed to photograph in public places
  • Rights that pertain to photographing private property
  • Situations where photographs or videos may be legally confiscated
  • Times when photographer's rights may legitimately be suspended in order to avoid interference with law enforcement operations

Just because you're informed about your rights as a photographer doesn't mean that others are. It's important to go into a situation armed with the knowledge of what you can and cannot do. It's equally important, however, to have a good attitude and practice good photography etiquette. As Mattsson's experience illustrates, following these guidelines isn't a guarantee that the police will let you be but it just might make the difference between gaining compliance to get the shot that you want or entering into a sixteen month legal battle of your own.


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