Please note that the information on this website regarding photographers' rights and UK law must not be regarded as authoritative. It is written in general terms with a view to increasing general everyday understanding. However it is neither intended to provide authoritative advice nor to be used as guidance in specific cases. Anyone seeking authoritative advice regarding such matters, or anyone involved in a particular legal case, must seek the advice of a suitably qualified solicitor.
The Official Secrets Act 1911 makes it an offence to take a photograph of a “prohibited place” where this might be useful to an enemy. The term “prohibited place” encompasses a great variety of places and includes:
- Defence establishments;
- Factories, dockyards, mines, ships and aircraft belonging to the crown;
- Places where munitions are stored;
- Any place belonging to the Crown that has been declared a prohibited place for the time being by order of a Secretary of State;
- Any railway, road or waterway and any place used for gas, water or electricity works which has been declared a prohibited place for the time being by order of a Secretary of State;
- Any place belonging to the Civil Aviation Authority;
- Any telecommunications office owned by a public telecommunications operator.
It is important to note that the prohibition on photography applies only to photographs that might be useful to an enemy. In addition, the photographs must have been taken for a purpose "prejudicial to the State". Photographers taking photographs of such places for innocent purposes may nevertheless be subject to investigation in to the nature of the photographs and the purpose for which they were taken.