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Monday, August 02, 2010

Police continue to abuse powers

The London Photographers Branch of the National Union of Journalists has a case study on its website in which a journalist was threatened with arrest and forced to delete images on her camera. They write:

Branch member Carmen Valino had images deleted from her camera by police and was threatened with arrest whilst photographing the scene of a shooting in Hackney, East London. The incident happened on Saturday as Valino photographed the crime scene from outside a police cordon whilst on assignment from the Hackney Gazette. She had identified herself as a journalist and showed her UK Press Card to police.

A police Sergeant approached Valino telling her that she was disrupting a police investigation and to hand over her camera. After protesting to the Sergeant that she was in a public place, outside the cordon he had no right to take her camera, he grabbed her wrist and pulled out his handcuffs. Before he could put the cuffs on she handed him her camera. He then left for five minutes before coming back, bringing Valino inside the cordon and asking her to show him the images and deleting them. Valino was told that she could come back in a few hours to photograph the scene.

As the NUJ point out this incident highlights how police officers are still woefully ignorant of the law regarding photography and the agreed ACPO Media Guidelines which state:

Members of the media have a duty to take photographs and film incidents and we have no legal power or moral responsibility to prevent or restrict what they record. It is a matter for their editors to control what is published or broadcast, not the police. Once images are recorded, we have no power to delete or confiscate them without a court order, even if we think they contain damaging or useful evidence.

They say that the incident comes days after Met Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson admitted that officers did not always apply laws and guidelines to photographers correctly.
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