Photographer threatened with arrest and forced to delete images

2nd August, 2010

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.

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.

It comes days after Met Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson admitted that officers did not always apply laws and guidelines to photographers correctly. Valino is being supported by the branch and is seeking legal advice with backing from the NUJ.

Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary said “The abuse of the law must stop. There is a gulf between photographers legal rights and the current practices of individual police officers. The police should uphold the law, not abuse it – photographers acting in the public interest deserve better.”

NUJ supports threatened photographerNational Union of Journalists

54 Responses:

  1. Terence Eden says:

    As annoying / illegal as this is, it’s not entirely disastrous. There’s loads of software out there which can recover deleted photos from camera’s memory cards.
    I’ve used PhotoRec – http://www.cgsecurity.org/wiki/PhotoRec – which is free. There are also some paid for apps as well.

    • Andrew Denny says:

      Terence, It’s not just the deleted pictures or the inconvenience/annoyance which is the issue. In fact, that’s a relatively minor point.

      It’s the increasing pressure on photographers to justify themselves and the intimidation which is the problem. It’s making me more nervous to use a camera at all in a public place – even a phone camera.

  2. Dave Fitch says:

    She should sue for the malicious destruction of her personal property. Police require a court order to delete images – she needs to make a formal complaint and contact a solicitor.

  3. Andrew Denny says:

    Where’s the story for this? I mean, more info, or a link? There’s nothing on her website and I can’t fine a second source to the story.
    Thanks
    Andrew

  4. Monty says:

    What do you expect from Stormtroopers who would rival the Nazi’s SS?

  5. Guy Smallman says:

    She should:
    1) Make an official complaint to the IPCC via a solicitor.
    2) Use image recovery software to retrieve the images as evidence of no wrong doing.
    3) Ensure that this story (along with the officers name and number) is posted far and wide to the relevant news and trade publications.
    4) Talk to Bindmans about legal action for damages.

    Well done Jono & LPB for being on the ball with this.

  6. Louise says:

    I’m outraged at how the authorities treat those with a camera as the enemy….. in this particular incident the officers could use the images to help in their investigation… but then why offer to allow it in a couple of hours. Looks like they want to cover something up hence no photos…this makes me suspicious of the investigation in hand and that the images contain something they don’t want anyone to see but that will be gone in a few hours and so will the evidence? Is it me or am I just being suspicious??

  7. kathy williams says:

    perhaps we should go back to using film cameras . i wonder how police would deal with that? rip the film out?

  8. John Lumb says:

    Well, tell him to f£&%k o$$ and keep shooting, he has assaulted her, as well (common assault)get the images back with image recovery software, very easy. Police need to learn when to apply the power, this is not one of them, after 15yrs in the police myself (retired in 2000 after injury) I know how it works. The Commissioner has also backed this up. This is disgraceful. I was never disrupted by the press during investigations (had many serious ones as well) I am lead to believe that the job is not as confident therse days with their investigations, make of it what you will. I have been threatend as well but stand up and don’t back down you will be ok, we have not got to the point where journo’s and snappers go missing yet!

  9. With photojournalism announced dead (http://bit.ly/b4vVB1) it would appear UK police are providing a new (albeit uncomfortable) source of revenue for photographers: getting damages from the MET.

    £3,500 compensation was paid to photojournalist Marc Vallée and videographer Jason Parkinson (each)recently , as was reported here:
    http://londonphotographers.org/2010/06/victory-for-press-freedom/

  10. coldwaterjohn says:

    Ensure it is brought to the attention of Craig Mackey, Chief Constable of Cumbria, ACPO’s lead on police handling of photographers’ rights.
    His staff officer’s e-mail is: andy.shaddock@cumbria.pnn.police.uk

  11. Using film cameras should be interesting. They used to confiscate the film in the past, sometimes returned processed few days later. Wonder if they will still do this or just rip it out?
    Alternatively I may use my old Graflex, ‘Weegee’ large format camera if I see something like this around here. Wonder how they will react then?

  12. Mux says:

    Cameras should have an instant ‘upload the picture I’ve just taken to the internet’ – capability. Would make all these attempts to confiscate images futile…

  13. Linda Hall says:

    All the PC Plods who behave like this make us see them as the enemy. Is this really what they want – to alienate the entire British public?

  14. Rob Neal says:

    If photographers are threatened with arrest – LET THEM ARREST YOU. Be civil and polite at all times so they cannot charge you with breach of the peace. DO NOT hand over any equipment. If they intend to release you with a caution, refuse and demand that you be tried in a court of law. You have to make life difficult for them, and once your case comes up in front of the beak, publicise it in any way you can. The CPS will throw out the case, hopefully with compensation. If this fails, you can also bring a private prosecution against the arresting officer.

    • Let them arrest you is all well and good until (like me) they put you in a cell for a day and whilst you’re there, go unnanounced to your house, and in front of your wife and child and confiscate all your cameras, computer gear and hard drives then return them (damaged) six weeks later after bringing no charges at all. (surprise) It’s taken me almost three years to get over the trauma of this event to even announce this publicly – maybe its time I launched my official complaint? yes?

  15. Eliza says:

    Whilst I feel sympathy for the person in question and believe in this instance the police overstepped their bounds, I do believe that photographers often go too far in their supposed pursuit of “the peoples right”. When it crosses into the private lives of others that is when my sympathy for any photographs disapears.

    • Dan says:

      re the Paparazzi vs photographers I think there is a vast difference between the two.

    • Brian Brown says:

      @Eliza
      This journalist was in public filming from a public place. The concept of “private lives” has no meaning when you are in public.
      The problem here is that, once again, the police show that they have complete contempt for the rule of law, and apply the laws THEY would like to have instead. This means bullying, intimidation, harassment, violence and illegal activity.
      The Met know it happens, but they condone it and turn a blind eye, and just pay out the occasional compensation when they get caught.

  16. Dan says:

    Been there, actually. I was tackled and knocked to the ground at a rock concert because in the dark the concert cops (all off duty policemen) thought my telephoto lens was a shotgun. Go figure. And for further research … go to youtube and look up riots. You’ll see a lot of cop on photographer conflicts.

  17. Christopher Griffin says:

    I would go with the suggestion of saying ‘go ahead, arrest me’. Custody Sergeants are always grumpy, and know the law better than any of their colleagues. Police Officers know it’s more than their life is worth than to bring in someone with dodgy grounds for arrest. Custody Sergeants are more than happy to humiliate a Police Officer in front of colleagues and the detainee.

  18. nick says:

    I think the problem lies somewhere between what the photographer snaps and the reporter writes. Its only the camera that never lies.

  19. Mark says:

    At his recent publicised grilling, Stephenson asked for details of these “rare” incidents to be forwarded to him. I hope the photographer or LPB apprise him of the latest PR/common sense implosion. If the Met can’t control their own, we do live in a police state.

  20. Richard Ford says:

    Film people, film. The only true archival medium around that can’t be deleted. I would stand up for myself and state that not only will I sue the force – but the officer himself in a civil court as an individual.

  21. Cheesie says:

    It’s OK to say let them arrest you, but they then have your DNA – forever!!!!

  22. stargate says:

    Join ukpoliceonline – they have a news section and open a new thread and mention it in there. I have done this for another issue but, dont expect all complimentary comments! At least it gets the message across to the police who use that site

  23. Chris Bowlas says:

    If film were used, a plod would probably expose the entire roll or cassette before, grinning like an idiot, he handed it back to the photographer.

    The idea of some sort of real-time uplink is certainly interesting.

    • Terence Eden says:

      Sorry to re-open this old topic – but you can get cameras which automatically upload your photos.

      You can use the Eye-Fi – http://uk.eye.fi/ it’s a memory card which uploads images automatically. Only problem is, it’s WiFi only.

      You can also use your phone’s camera to upload wherever you’ve got signal. Only problem is, most phones aren’t great as cameras.

      Finally, you can use your phone as a portable WiFi hotspot, then have your Eye-Fi send them to your phone and up to the internet.

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  26. Frank burnside says:

    Same press coward scum that killed Diana the type that take photos of the dying instead of trying to help them…you have no sympathy from the normal decent hard working general public..

  27. Mike says:

    Oh My God! Just another overworked underpayed cop who was on a power trip who decided to flex a little muscle by giving this woman a hard time for snapping some pics.I would have taken the memory card and swallowed it right in front of him.

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  32. lawrence verne says:

    police had no rights under any law to force her to delete images,she should have defended her rights, maybe the police had something to hide, like unlawfully shooting & killing a suspected terrorist, that turns out to be just a guy out for a cycle ride or a tourist on a train,or a ametuar taking a few snapshots. seems like they wanna make up the law as they please, these days id rather trust the criminal, generaly they rob u once not 24/7 365days a year.

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