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No photos on our land

A tourist walking through Cambridge town centre is told by security that he cannot take photographs of a row of shops. Sounds like another heavy-handed use of s.44 of the Terrorism Act? No. This wasn’t a policeman using statutory powers to stop the tourist, but a private security guard at Grand Arcade. You can read the story in the Cambridge Evening News here.

You might think it is fair enough, as Grand Arcade is private property (an indoor shopping centre). This line of thinking says that if you enter the land, you do so subject to the conditions of the landowner. However, it is also a publicly accessible area that forms part of the town centre. Unlike police powers, the private security guard’s actions are not subject to legal review and are much less accountable. Remember too that it involved something as innocuous as a taking a photo, so any more expressive activities like leafleting are probably a non-starter. It goes to show that the private ownership of central quasi-public spaces come with costs in terms of liberties (even if it does bring other benefits in terms of investment).

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