Photographing arrested suspects

Mark Hancock was present at a police sting in Beaumont, Texas to arrest people involved in the sex trade in that city. He posted photos and commentary on the incident as well as explaining that it’s legal to show the faces of people under arrest.

Before anyone asks, yes, it’s perfectly legal to show the faces of people under arrest. However, our paper prefers to not to “convict before trial” by showing faces of people caught in orchestrated stings of Class B misdemeanor crimes. Capital crime arrestees are an entirely different situation.

However, everyone got a good laugh when the first female arrived at the command post and told the assembled media that she didn’t give us permission to photograph her (standing on a public street in handcuffs).

Judging by what I’ve seen on news reports on television I don’t think anyone under arrest could have any illusions of privacy with cameras poked in their faces at every turn.

Photographer’s Rights in Ireland

Digital Rights Ireland have published a post about the rights of photographers in our fair isle. It’s a detailed post that shows some of the differences between the rights a photographer might expect here and abroad.

I find it troubling that the Minister for Justice says “that the private interactions of a person – even in a public place – may be covered by the right to privacy”. This could include shopping or meeting someone for a coffee, even if it’s in the street and in a public place! His opinion will help shape the upcoming privacy bill, is this a facet of the bill? If a person expects privacy they shouldn’t be on the street in full view of potentially hundreds of people. Settle into a nice warm cafe and out of the wind!

A few days ago, I asked, “do I need a model release?” Maybe in Ireland the question should be, do I even have the right to photograph someone in public?

Edit: it’s February 2015 now and the DRI article has moved to here. It’s very old at this stage and may be slightly out of date. In a comment on a recent photo the following was posted by John Finn:

I have been in touch with the Data Protection Commissioner about the legality or otherwise of photographing people in public places. As it stands, the situation is that under Data Protection law, you have a right not to have your personal data collected, published or otherwise processed without your consent. This includes your image, and therefore covers photographs. There is an exemption to the Data Protection Acts for the purposes of art or journalism.

I think that those of us who dabble in street photography would claim the artistic defence were we ever to be challenged by someone who objected to seeing his/her image being used on the internet without his/her knowledge. However, it is a grey area. Would a judge necessarily agree that, for example, my taking a photo of someone walking down the street with his children was “artistic”? Could it be construed as being sinister, maybe even verging on the perverse?

The DP was unable to give a clear cut ruling on the matter other than stating that each case would be judged on its merits. There have not been any cases tested in court .

So, proceed with caution, is my advice. The vast majority of people will neither know nor care if their images are being distributed on the net but there’s always a first time. It might be prudent, were you ever to be so challenged by an offended individual, to delete the photo forthwith rather than stand on ceremony. It could prove to be the rock you’d perish on.