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.
Any photographer who is challenged regarding his or her photographic activities is best advised to respond in a calm and reasonable manner. Explain what you are doing, and why, and offer to co-operate in any reasonable way to resolve the matter. Avoiding confrontation generally reduces the chances of being arrested. Do not resist if police officers insist on searching you and/or your property, or even if they decide to arrest you. If such a search or arrest is illegal, it is better to seek redress under the law at a later date.
A photographer who is arrested has the same basic rights as any other person in the UK. You do not have to say anything to the police, but should you later be charged with a crime and you have not mentioned, when questioned, something that you later rely on in court, then this may be taken into account when deciding whether you are guilty. If there is a good reason why you do not wish to say anything to the police, do not be intimidated into answering questions. Ask to see a solicitor in the police station as soon as possible. Remember that once you have been arrested, everything you say may be used in evidence.
Upon arrest, everyone has the right to be treated humanely and with respect. You also have the right to see the written codes governing your legal rights and how you are treated, to speak to the custody officer (who must safeguard your welfare), and to know why you have been arrested. Finally, you also have the right to have someone informed of your arrest and to consult privately with a solicitor (free of charge).
It is important not to panic even if you are placed in a cell. You cannot be kept there for more than 24 hours (in normal circumstances and unless the alleged crime is particularly serious).