Documented cases of Police and PCSO Harrassment of Photographers

This is a guest post by Matt Wardman of the Wardman Wire.

Matt Wardman: Chris Dillow wrote about the creation of an offense to photograph a policeman in response to the latest Terrorism Law. A commentator called “Jon” made this wholly remarkable assertion:

The s. 58 offence has been on the books since 19 February 2001, and yet we have not been overwhelmed with tales of confiscated cameras and abused photographers.

So I thought I’d compile a list of just a few of the instances that I have come across.

Some people may take a view that certain of these cases represent justified interventions. In that case I ask you to defend all the others rather than pick-nits. I think the evidence is broad enough to show that we have a serious problem with our policing culture.

I’d note specifically that the “policing culture” is not set solely by the police themselves – rather it is set by several factors:

  1. The legal principles and policy guidelines that flow from the Government.
  2. “Operational policing” (horrible phrase but the best I can do and it’s the one politicians use to say “nothing to do with us Gov, talk to the coppers”), as defined by ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) recommendations interpreted in each Force Area by the Senior Officer(s).
  3. The attitudes of the individual officers.
  4. The relationship between police and society.
  5. The attitudes prevalent among the people.

This list is the first section of a new resource page. Tomorrow I will post some reflections.

Documented cases of Harrassment of Photographers

  1. Added 18/2/2009 (Amateur) Thursday, 22 January 2009, PCSO: Dr Rachel Joyce, Conservative PPC for Harrow West. Friend taking photo of her at Harrow Bus Station. For this he was stopped by the police (well, actually two transport PCSOs) under the Terrorism Act.
  2. Added 18/2/2009 (Amateur) Saturday 10th January 2009, Police Officer (?): Leslie Cheyne, Ship-Spotter. Sedgefield, County Durham aged 60 (and white) *. Leslie Cheyne, of Sedgefield, County Durham, said he was asked what he was doing by a Cleveland Police officer while enjoying his hobby at South Gare, in Redcar. He said he was horrified to be asked if he had any terrorism connections and told that his details would be kept on file, even though he was not committing a crime. “I phoned the police to complain and they said, ‘for all we know you could be bin Laden’s brother’.” (* I’m not getting into a conversation about “race profiling” here; this is about documenting raw cases).
  3. Added 18/2/2009 (Professional) November 2007, Police Constable, Lawrence Looi, covering protest, forced to delete photos under duress. Police got law wrong, detained photographer, made him delete photos, broke ACPO Guidelines. (Source.)
  4. Added 18/2/2009 (Amateur) September 21, 2008, Police: Councillor Spencer Drury, Plumstead. Out in Plumstead High Street to gauge opinion on the issues down there in advance of a ward by-election next Thursday. He was also taking photos and when he got to the Police Station he took a photo of it. After doing this a Police van pulled up, an officer got out, and then asked what he was doing. Cllr Drury explained that he was a local politician and that he was taking pictures for literature in the upcoming by-election. The police officer however did not believe him and demanded identification under the Terrorism Act. When Cllr Drury asked if the officer thought he was a terrorist he was told the answer was “Yes”. Council identification was produced, radio communications made and an embarrassed police officer let them go on their way.
  5. Added 18/2/2009 (Amateur) November 2007, Phil Smith stopped from photographing the Christmas lights being switched on by police at a public event in Ipswich, and asked whether he had a “licence to use the camera”. Police ignorance of law / intimidation. Police fault admitted. Police admit they got law wrong.(Source.)
  6. Added 5/3/2009 (Amateur alleged photographer) September 2008, Manchester. Police.Stephen Clarke suspected of taking photos of “sealed sewer grids” with his camera phone. No photos discovered on phone. Held anyway for 2 days in police cell on “suspicion of preparing a terrorist offence” (paraphrased). DNA taken and retained. My articleBoingBoing article.
  7. Added 18/2/2009 (Amateur) Thursday, 12 September 2007, PCSO: Dr Rachel Joyce, Conservative PPC for Harrow West. Walking through Harrow Town Centre with a colleague, we noticed a thick layer of pigeon droppings on some of the public seats. As this could be a health hazard, we took a photo of it to highlight to the relevant authorities…… and we got stopped and questioned (not actually searched) by PCSOs under the Terrorism Act!!!!! – for taking photos in a public place!!
  8. Added 18/2/2009 (Professional) September 2007, Police (?): Mike Wells. Freelance photographer Mike Wells is stopped and searched three times and had his phone taken while covering the Defence Systems and Equipment International exhibition in London. Press card shown. Officers told Wells that he was being searched on the grounds that he was a person likely to cause criminal damage such as graffiti. Source.
  9. Added 18/2/2009 (Amateur) Tuesday, July 31, 2007, Police: Dave Gorman the Comedian. Police. Accused of being in breach of the peace for taking photographs at a fair in London. Breach of the peace: “The Court of Appeal defined a breach of the peace as being ‘an act done or threatened to be done which either actually harms a person, or in his presence, his property, or is likely to cause such harm being done’ – see R v Howell. “Security Guards were kicking up a fuss. Seems to me that *they* should have done for possibly threatening behaviour.
  10. Added 19/2/2009 (Professional/Amateur) February 2007, Court Injunction: Everyone who wants to take photos of work removing trees at Radley Lakes. Electricity giant Npower has obtained an injunction to stop protests and filming at Radley Lakes, the site of a proposed ash dump in Oxfordshire. Channel 4 Video report. Injunction prevents filming from the public road.(Court evidence was anonymous claims.)
  11. Added 18/2/2009 (Professional) November 2006: Paul Page After being photographed, off-duty SO14 officer Paul Page pursues Sun freelance photographer Scott Hornby, ramming his car to a standstill then forcing him out of the car at gunpoint. Page is later found not guilty of dangerous driving, possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear, and false imprisonment after telling a jury that he thought the photographer was a hitman. (Source.)
  12. Added 18/2/2009 (Professional) October 2006, Police: Marc Vallée: Photojournalist Marc Vallée is hospitalised and left unable to work for a month with injuries sustained following police action at a demonstration in Parliament Square. Metropolitan Police agreed out-of-court settlement, but do not accept liability. (Source.)
  13. Added 18/2/2009 (Professional) October 2006, Police, Mark McMahon: Photographer Marc McMahon is arrested for breaching the peace while photographing an incident on Newcastle’s Tyne Bridge where a man was threatening to commit suicide. Showed press card, police unlawfully told McMahon he could not take photographs, and when he continued to do so, he was arrested. McMahon’s camera bag containing £10,000 of camera equipment was later stolen after being left at the scene by police officers. A court found McMahon not guilty of obstructing a police officer, and said that he had acted “professionally”. McMahon later sued the police for the loss of his equipment. Police got law wrong, overreached authority, lost Court Case.
  14. Added 18/2/2009 (Professional) September 2006, Police: Andy Handley: Milton Keynes News staff photographer Andy Handley is arrested for obstruction after refusing to hand over his equipment after photographing a traffic accident. Police later apologise, and describe his arrest as “a serious misjudgement”. (Source.) Police admit they got law wrong.
  15. Added 18/2/2009 (Professional) August 2006, Heathrow Airport Police. During a terror alert, police at Heathrow Airport forced two staff press photographers to delete images from their camera memory cards. All photographers arriving at the airport were banned from taking pictures of the incident. (Source.)
  16. Added 18/2/2009 (Professional) March 2006, Armed Police: Alan Lodge. Photographing an armed incident in Nottingham, photographer Alan Lodge is arrested firstly for assault, then de-arrested, before being arrested and de-arrested for breach of the peace, and finally being arrested and later charged with obstruction. Lodge, who helped draft the guidelines used by the police for dealing with the press, was later found guilty. (Source.) [MW: Police case looks deeply dodgy, despite verdict.]
You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply