The ‘I’m a Photographer not a Terrorist’ (PHNAT) campaign is alarmed by footage of a filmmaker being insulted, threatened with arrest and having his gear manhandled – all for filming a sign.
24-year-old media graduate Alan Noble was shooting a time lapse for a personal project promoting the North East, when Port of Tyne security told him to stop filming from a public highway. Security then asked him if he was a “lunatic” when he declined to comply before calling the police and continuing to insult him and state that he would be arrested.
Guards also grabbed his tripod and demanded to see the contents of his camera – before refusing to let go and telling him he could not leave. The video, and the harmless shot Alan was trying to get, can be viewed here:
This latest incident between uninformed security guards and an informed member of the public around photography highlights the amount of work that still needs to be done to educate security staff up and down the UK.
Thankfully when the police were called they supported the filmmaker – agreeing after the end of the clip that he was well within his rights. Though the force seems to defend the actions of the guards, with a Northumbria Police spokesperson saying: “The Port of Tyne’s security officers acted in accordance with the security regulations that apply to major ports.” *
They added: “No offence has been reported and no further action is being taken. We recognise photographers and film makers are within their rights to film outside an organisation, however, it is always beneficial to help prevent them from being asked to explain what they are doing to inform the organisation in advance that they intend to film outside their premises.”
The filmmaker has made a complaint to the Port of Tyne but hasn’t received a reply yet, with somebody taking the bizarre step of issuing takedown notices to Twitter and Instagram over some posts of the video.
The reports do not confirm who issued the takedown requests.
PHNAT put a number of questions to the Port of Tyne press officer but is yet to receive any response after two days. We hope to update this post when we do. We’ve asked them about their policies, procedure and training as well as what action is being taken over the incident and for an explanation of apparent attempts to censor public discussion around the footage. *UPDATE AT THE BOTTOM*
People are free to film from public highways and this claim by security that the sign was ‘protected’ by the Department for Transport simply doesn’t wash. Industry guidance exists from the British Security Industry Association on photography (PDF) and you can check out the law on the PHNAT ‘bust card’.
If an individual is in a public place photographing or filming a private building, security guards have no right to prevent the individual from taking photographs.
BSIA Guidance for security guards
Some final words from Alan:
“I was well within my rights to be there, I was on public land filming the Port of Tyne sign as part of a personal project to promote the North East.
“As you can see from the video encounter the police were called. My phone ran out of memory just as the police arrived – in a nutshell, they said I had done nothing wrong and left me to continue doing my work.
“I am yet to receive an apology from the Port of Tyne.
“I have tried on numerous occasions to contact them and have not been given a reasonable excuse as to why no one can speak to me over the phone. They have started an investigation and I was told I would receive a letter in the post.
“But I believe something as serious as this needs to be dealt with in person or over the phone.
“I want to get the message out there that people have rights and they need to know them when out in public. I felt bullied and trapped by the two guards, despite explaining the law to them.
“I feel they need better training on how to deal with the public correctly and they need to get their facts right before accusing people, as they put it, of “hostile reconnaissance”.
“I fully understand and support that security have a job to do and that the port is at risk, however there is a way of dealing with people. As you will see from the video, they went about it the completely wrong way.”
*The police comment was updated to include this on their request after a shortened version was initially published.
UPDATE: Despite ignoring our questions the Port of Tyne have finally been forced to respond, telling The Register: “Whilst we appreciate the matter could have been handled more sensitively, our employees are required to act in accordance with international security regulations which are designed to protect ports and the public.”
When asked what regulations, they said ‘The International Code for the Security of Ships and Port Facilities’. As El Reg rightly points out, these only apply to restricted areas of the port and not the public road outside. Ironically it has also emerged that they run a photo and film competition…