Olympics Legal Guidelines

17th July, 2012

The National Union of Journalists has been assured that there will be no press freedom issues during the Olympics with security guards, police or the military. This know-your-rights guide is designed to help if things go wrong. Download pdf version


  • Remain calm, polite and reasonable at all times
  • Immediately confirm you are working as a journalist and show your press card
  • ACPO/Met police agreed Media Guidelines confirm that the police have no legal power or moral responsibility to prevent or restrict what journalists record
  • Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) the police have no power to seize journalistic material without a court order (See NUJ advice). Do not physically resist
  • Private Security have no additional rights other than that of an ordinary citizen on public property. Except where they are Accredited Persons. You can be asked to leave whilst photographing on private property, you could be arrested and charged with the offence of trespass if you refuse.
  • Try to film or record the conversation so that there is a record of the incident. Get witness names and contact details. Also badge numbers of police officers

Police Powers 

Stop & Search – Police and Criminal Evidence (PACE) Act 1984 

You don’t have to give your details but best to cooperate and show your press card

Under this act police must:

  • Provide ID, name and police station
  • Tell you the object of proposed search
  • Provide a search record (important for any later legal action)

Section 1 PACE allows the police to search you if they have reasonable suspicion that you have an offensive weapon

s43 – Terrorism Act 2000

  • with reasonable suspicion police can stop and search you for anything that may constitute evidence that you are a terrorist
  • a police officer of the same sex must search you
  • police can seize and retain anything reasonably considered evidence

s47a Terrorism Act 2000 (replaces repealed s44)

  • A senior police officer with reasonable suspicion can designate an area where it is thought an act of terrorism might take place. No reasonable suspicion is required to stop and search for terrorism evidence. Police can retain anything found and reasonably suspected of being evidence

s58a Terrorism Act 

  • It is illegal for a person to elicit or attempt to elicit (collect) information from an individual who is, or has been a member of the armed forces, intelligence services or a constable, which is of a kind likely to be useful to a person preparing an act of terrorism or publishes or communicates any such information. Equipment can be viewed and seized. Maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment

 s60 Public Order Act

Police can:

  • authorise a designated area on reasonable belief that serious violence has taken, or may take place
  • search individuals or vehicles in that area with or without reasonable suspicion, for prohibited weapons or dangerous instruments (e.g. sharps)
  • require removal of any item used wholly or mainly to conceal identity
  • journalists could be charged with obstruction if they refuse to cooperate

s5 Public Order Act 

  • Using threatening, abusive, insulting words or behaviour within the hearing of someone likely to be harassed, alarmed or distressed.
  • An arrestable offence and a fine up to £5000.00 if you actually cause harm or offence

s14 Public Order Act

  • The most senior police officer can place conditions on a public assembly such as place, duration and numbers and can clear an area if he/she believes that serious disorder, threat to property or disruption to the life of the community will occur
  • It is a criminal offence not to cooperate and you can be fined or imprisoned

Accredited Persons

  • A chief constable can set up a community accreditation scheme
  • Traffic wardens, security guards, store detectives etc can apply and get the powers usually associated with the police or Police Community Support Officers. They are issued ID cards
  • Can issue fixed penalty notices for a wide range of minor offences. They have the power to photograph, take names and addresses of persons they suspect of a crime or anti social behaviour. Offence if you refuse.
  • They do not have the power to detain
  • Police Community Support Officer can detain for 30 mins until police arrive


  • Always try to resolve issues at the time, communicate
  • Walk away. Find another way round the situation
  • Call Police Press Bureau number to help resolve local issues 0207 230 2171 (24h)
  • Call NUJ emergency number below

If Arrested

  •  You will be taken to a police station. Police are not entitled to seize journalistic material without a court order of judge.
  • Make sure custody record logs your journalistic material (kit/phone/memory cards etc) is protected under PACE as ‘Special Procedure Material’. Make a note of the seal numbers on the evidence bags, ensure they are listed on the custody record.
  • You have the right to inform someone of your arrest, police must ensure this happens swiftly
  • Call NUJ emergency number (see below)
  • You have a right to free and independent legal advice whilst in custody. A duty solicitor on rota will be available, or better request specific solicitor (NUJ Solicitor, see below)

Your options if treated unfairly

  •  File a report to: legal@nuj.org.uk
  • Complain – expensive, lengthy process, successful in some serious cases
  • Sue – costly and will need convincing evidence
  • Judicial Review – not for one-off instances, lengthy and has potential to make bad law
  • Seek NUJ guidance on above

The information supplied above is for general guidance, it is not legal advice. For professional legal advice please contact the NUJ Legal Department: legal@nuj.org.uk 0207 843 3704

Emergency 24h legal numbers if arrested (keep safe):

  • Bindmans LLP – 0207 833 4433
  • Thompsons Solicitors – 0800 587 7530

Follow updates on twitter: @NUJPhoto & @phnat

© NUJ-LPB 2012  www.londonphotographers.org


Other resources:

Audio – Olympic Concerns LPB legal meeting with Bindmans

Article – Hostile Olympic Security 

Olympics Accredited Persons, Advertising and Trademarks



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