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.
Under UK law it is a criminal offence to obstruct a highway, road, cycle path, pavement or footpath. A photographer can therefore stand in a road or on a path to take photographs provided the flow of traffic or people is not impeded. This provision may very relevant to a photographer using a tripod in a busy area. It may also be relevant should a photographer wish to use a reflector, umbrella, cables, step ladder or other bulky equipment.
The normal response of the police when a photographer is judged to be causing an obstruction is to ask him or her to move and hence remove the obstruction. Only if a photographer persistently causes obstruction would an arrest normally be justified.
Another form of obstruction relates to obstructing police officers in the execution of their duties. When photographing police officers, or an incident with which they are dealing, it is important to remain outside areas that may be cordoned off and not impede the movement of police officers, emergency vehicles etc.