Two years ago I was hassled by Heritage Wardens on Parliament Square and told to stop taking photographs.
At the time, I interviewed the manager of the Wardens, Mr. Dean Eardley, who claimed that even for non-commercial use, there was a list of websites I could/could not publish to.
My film and story was taken up by the NUJ, the BPPA and ‘Peace News’. Because Ed Sterns at Scotland Yard had given an assurance, when new bye-laws were introduced, that this sort of thing would not happen, the head of the BPPA took the matter up with them. MP John McDonnell agreed to table an Early Day Motion in Parliament over the issue. The NUJ also approached the mayor’s office.
In the end, the GLA offered an apology that stated unequivocally that the Heritage Warden had “overstated his authority and misquoted the bye-laws”. They said that “action would be taken to address this lapse of standards”.
In a public statement, the GLA apologised for the incident and clarified that “There are no restrictions on photography or filming for private or amateur use.” They stated that prior authorisation was required for “commercial filming”, but they clarified that “commercial photography or filming is that which is done for financial gain”, that there are no other restrictions and that “what someone does with their photographic or video material is entirely a matter for the person taking the image or recording”.
The Support Services Manager, Chris Harris, who gave all these public assurances, said that the issues I’d highlighted “had been taken very seriously and that action had been taken to address them”.
You would think then, wouldn’t you, that Mr. Eardley would have been told of this apology, and re-educated about his interpretation of restrictions on filming, but not only does he claim (at the end of yesterday’s new footage) that he knows nothing about any apology, but also, he is seen happily defending his wardens behaviour of hassling student film-makers, asking for their ID, and telling them to stop filming.
The new incident began yesterday afternoon when, passing through Trafalgar Square, i caught a Heritage Warden interfering with two small student groups, the first interviewing people about extremism, the other filming a small-scale drama project with one actor. Both were told they couldn’t film on the square, and the first lot were asked for their IDs.
When questioned, the Heritage Warden I spoke to at first said it was the Bye-Law. I asked him to show it to me. He told me I could look for myself on the boards around the Square – these boards DO list the Bye-Laws, but I wanted the Warden to show me which law he was enforcing – he refused. He then said it wasn’t a Bye-Law, but was the “protocols”. I asked whether this had any legal authority, and he couldn’t understand what I meant, telling me it was just his job. I asked to see a copy of the protocol, and he went off for a while, but came back with nothing, saying the printer wasn’t working. I asked to speak to his manager, and was told I’d have to wait a few minutes. Then I was told the manager wouldn’t speak to me but I could phone a number.
Soon after, I spotted Mr Eardley. The interview with him makes up most of the short film I’ve posted. He admitted that the Wardens were not relying on Bye-Laws at all, but on a “student protocol” which he claimed was set by the GLA who would be able to supply me with a copy. He also claimed that his staff were not “directing” students to stop filming, but “advising” them. This is not what three different students told me.
I don’t yet know whether the whole thing is another of Mr. Eardley’s fanciful ideas (like the list of approved websites he invented in 2012), or whether the GLA are reneging on all the assurances they have given about freedom to film, but either way, this interference with people going about their private business is intolerable and must stop.
I’ve asked for a copy of the “protocols” from the GLA and contacted the NUJ again. This post will be updated as the story unfolds.