Photographer detained under ‘terrorism’ law for taking pictures of public building

Hove Town Hall, where photographer Eddie Mitchell was detained by police for taking pictures of the public building (Photograph: Eddie Mitchell)
Hove Town Hall, where photographer Eddie Mitchell was detained by police for taking pictures of the public building (Photograph: Eddie Mitchell)

A Worthing photographer was detained by police under the Terrorism Act after taking photographs of a civic building in Hove this afternoon (May 4).

Eddie Mitchell said he was taking general shots of the Hove Town Hall when he was asked by a member of police staff what he was doing.

Mr Mitchell said he told the woman: “I am a photographer taking pictures.”

But because he would not give his name or tell her why he was taking the pictures, he was asked to enter the police station at Hove Town Hall to make a statement.

It was then that two officers detained Mr Mitchell, searched him, and took his camera under section 43 of the Terrorism Act.

Section 43 of the Terrorism Act says: “A constable may stop and search a person whom he reasonably suspects to be a terrorist to discover whether he has in his possession anything which may constitute evidence that he is a terrorist.”

Mr Mitchell said: “What is going on? Any member of the public can take a picture anywhere at anytime, and 99 per cent of police officers know that, and are very good.

“A member of staff in civilian clothing took it upon herself to ask me what I was doing. Then I have to go in and make a statement that I’m taking a general view of a public building,”

A Sussex Police spokesperson said: “A man who was taking photos of Hove Town Hall was politely asked by a member of police staff why he was doing so and declined to give a reason or identify himself.

“He was invited into the police front office where he was spoken to by two police officers, but he continued to refuse to provide information or identification and as a result was searched under Section 43 of the Terrorism Act.

“As a result of the search, which included the camera equipment he was using, it was established that his activity was not suspicious and he was allowed to leave.”

Chief Superintendent Lisa Bell, divisional policing commander for Brighton and Hove, said: “I am satisfied that the action my officers took was completely appropriate when the threat level is at severe, meaning an attack is highly likely. If the man had identified himself, then the matter could have been resolved in minutes.”