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Page last updated at 12:28 GMT, Friday, 28 November 2008
Don't get snap happy in new mall
Damian Derrick next to reindeer
Dan took three pictures before security guards approached

You are in Cabot Circus with friends and you want a cute festive photo of the enormous Christmas reindeer residing in the shopping centre.

So you get out your camera or phone to take a snap of your mate next to the giant four-legged decoration.

Simple enough, you'd have thought; but managers have banned photos being taken there without express permission.

Some shoppers, including Kirsten Elliott, have been told to leave after being "caught" photographing there.

"A man came up to me - not in uniform, in dark clothing - and said I could not take photos without permission," astonished Kirsten told BBC Radio Bristol.

When she argued the centre was a public right of way Kirsten was told it's private property and if she did not agree to sign for permission she would be asked to leave.

She also feared her camera might be confiscated.

BBC Radio Bristol reporters Dan O'Brien and Damian Derrick took our cameras down to Cabot Circus to see what reaction they got...

Dan O'Brien
Dan took a camera to Cabot Circus
Dan writes: We weren't really sure what to expect with this one.

As far as I could see there weren't any signs around saying photos weren't allowed.

So, myself and Damian started taking some rather cheesy pictures in front of the largest Christmas reindeer, in the central square of Cabot Circus.

I managed to get three shots - two of Damian, one of the building - before two security guards appeared from different directions and told me photography wasn't allowed without permission.

To be fair, they were very polite about it and told us exactly how to go about getting permission - but the speed at which they picked us up was a little disconcerting, especially as I didn't even see them coming.

The reasons, apparently, were a mixture of preventing the risk of terrorism, and making sure photographs of potential problems with the building (like health and safety hazards) weren't taken and sent to the press.

Ironically seeing as we were the press, getting permission was actually very easy - just signing our names in the management's office - and from then on we could photograph to our heart's content.

But afterwards I felt a question nagging: when you're inside Cabot Circus, just how closely are you being watched?

A selection of your comments:

I had taken quite a few shots of the Cabot Circus precinct primarily to e-mail to friends and family to "show off" our new shopping mall. A chap in dark clothing (not uniform) appeared and asked me, very politely to not take any more photos. I agreed. A couple of weeks later I was on the car park bridge going toward the car park when I chatted to a man about this unusual bridge, this man turned out to be an official of the Cabot Centre and was pleased to receive feedback from a "shopper". When I mentioned about the photo taking incident he indicated that there had subsequently been a relaxing of the rules where normal digital snaps were being taken. Hi-tech cameras with telephoto lens were another matter. Very polite and pleasant contact in both cases.
Glynne, Winterbourne

How has an area which was public space (i.e. the roads and pavements around the old shopping areas) been given away to private developers to control? This is happening more and more to all the UK's cities - soon there won't be any public owned space in the cities, just developer controlled shopping areas...
Ian, Clevedon

I was there a while ago with a friend who lives in Bristol. I was using a digital SLR type camera but not with a fancy telephoto lens - just an old, basic 50mm thing which I using because it was dark and it works well in such conditions. It can't zoom at all. I was told quite abruptly that no photography was allowed on the premises. I think it's pretty ridiculous - private premises or not, what harm could I have done?!? The policy does the centre more harm than good - I can't be arsed shopping there now, on principle.
David, Ormskirk

As a long standing photographer, this debate about permissions to photograph in public often comes up. The position is quite clear and the Cabot circus management have not checked the law. There is no law in this country restricting photography anywhere that the public are free to roam. Even on private property, if the access is given to roam on that property. The Bureau of Freelance Photographers has printed a card for its members to show any to officials including the police that interfere with this right, that they cannot in law stop the photographer. The card also states no individual has a legal right to stop a photographer from photographing them. I have been approached and asked to stop taking photos at Cabot Circus , but continued to do so. It is illegal for them to stop you! Hence the paparazzi still flourish.
Martin, Bristol

I agree with Ian and Martin. To stop the shopping personnel committing a breach of the peace, the council and the police should let them know the law now, and stop this nonsense of trying to restrict our rights.
John, Keynsham

I was approached a couple of weeks ago by a number of over zealous goons who asked me to stop taking photos but could offer no explanation. I have yet to hear any coherent justification from Cabot Circus management for such a bizarre policy; one that is especially redundant and meaningless these days given the ubiquity of high quality compacts and camera phones with as high pixel counts as any DSLR.
Mark, Bristol

I too was stopped from using my SLR in Cabot Circus. There are no signs up forbidding photography. The "guard" even asked me to delete the pictures I'd taken. I refused. They (& the police) have no right to delete photographs without a court order.
Stephen, Bristol

"preventing the risk of terrorism" What a load of tosh! I seem to remember the management inviting the BBC and others in to take detailed pics during it's construction and on the opening day. This restriction on taking photo's is ludicrous.

New 500m shopping centre opens
25 Sep 08 |  Bristol




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