Posts Tagged ‘Marc Vallée’

Police officers cannot be above the law

11th October, 2010

Today’s Guardian reports that Sir Paul Stephenson, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, has “privately lobbied the home secretary to make it harder for people to take legal action against his force.”

Since 2006 I have sued the Metropolitan Police twice and it’s not been an easy process. It is time consuming, expensive and at times exhausting. In 2006 I was assaulted by Metropolitan Police officers when I was reporting on a protest in Parliament Square. I was taken to St Thomas’ hospital by ambulance and could not work for month. When the case settled two years later in 2008 my solicitor, Chez Cotton said:

This was an extremely unpleasant incident. Neither the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police or his officers has any legal power, moral responsibility or political responsibility to prevent or restrict what the media record. Mr Vallée is a well-respected photojournalist, lawfully present to photograph a political protest outside parliament, yet he was brutally prevented from doing so by the police. It is right that Mr Vallée has received an apology, an out of court settlement and that his legal costs will be met by the police.

In late 2008 video journalist Jason Parkinson and I were unlawfully stopped by Metropolitan Police officers from reporting on a protest outside the Greek Embassy. This case settled early this year and our solicitor, Chez Cotton once again, said:

The media play a critical role in recording civil unrest, political events, including protests and demonstrations and, where it arises, police wrong doing. It is of grave concern that an armed, diplomatic officer of the Metropolitan Police Force felt it was appropriate to call these journalists ‘scum’ and stop them from working and was happy to do so in full knowledge that he was being filmed. My clients were physically prevented from reporting on protest and political unrest of international importance.

These are just two of the many cases that journalists – with support from the NUJ – have taken on to defend media freedom. For many the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) route is a non-starter. Many photographers have found the IPCC to be far from independent and highly bureaucratic.

Bottom line, when the police act outside the law and attack human rights and media freedoms by physically attacking media workers then the police should be held to account for such actions. It seems that Sir Paul Stephenson has other ideas.

Is this about cost-cutting in the short term or is it a more calculated strategy to give his officers a freer hand when policing the public reaction to the political and economic shockwaves of the coalition governments austerity measures. And to remove those that will give that movement the oxygen of publicity?


Marc Vallée is a freelance photojournalist and the branch’s Legal Rep.

A Victory for Press Freedom

25th June, 2010


A police officer attempts to stop the media reporting on a blockade of the Greek Embassy by Greek and British anarchists in London, England. Image © Marc Vallée 2008

Video: Journalists win payout after police admit failing to respect press freedomguardian.co.uk

Investigative photojournalist Marc Vallée and videographer Jason Parkinson have received an apology and damages from the Metropolitan Police after being forcibly prevented from working by officers at a political protest outside the Greek Embassy in 2008. Both members received the apology today:

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has accepted liability for breach of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The MPS apologise for this and have paid compensation. The MPS confirms its recognition that freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democracy and that journalists have a right to report freely. The MPS recognise that on 8 December 2008 they failed to respect press freedom in respect of Mr Vallée and Mr Parkinson.

The police have accepted liability for breaching Article 10 and made a payment of £3,500 compensation to each and are paying their legal costs.

Responding to the settlement Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary said:

Professional journalists and photographers have detailed numerous attempts by police officers to stifle the reporting of protests. Today we have achieved a significant victory – it is right that the police admit liability, apologise and compensate those whose basic human rights were breached in such a blatant and aggressive manner.

The police need to quickly learn the lessons of these shameful events, recognise the importance of media freedom and take the necessary steps to recognise the press card during police training to ensure it doesn’t happen again. The result is a huge boost for media freedom and the rights of photographers.

On the day of the protest armed officer from the Metropolitan police’s diplomatic protection group pulled Vallée’s camera away from his face and covered the lens of Parkinson’s video camera whilst stating “you cannot film me.”

NUJ Legal Officer Roy Mincoff said:

The police need to learn that journalists and photographers have a right to report and photograph as recognised by the European Court of Human Rights. The NUJ has held the police to account before and will do so again unless all officers at all ranks abide by the law

Chez Cotton, Head of the Police Misconduct department at leading civil rights firm Bindmans LLP said:

It is of grave concern that an armed, diplomatic officer of the Metropolitan Police Force felt it was appropriate to call these journalists ‘scum’ and stop them from working and was happy to do so in full knowledge that he was being filmed.

My clients were physically prevented from reporting on protest and political unrest of international importance.  Just before he was frog marched by officers away from events, Mr Parkinson filmed an officer punching a protester in the side of the head, although the protester appears to be already under the control of several officers.  That the police appeared not to want these journalists to film what appeared to be extremely brutal arrests using force is a cause for further alarm.

Further to this public acknowledgment that his officers have breached the fundamental right of journalists to report, and in light of wide ranging criticisms of how the press were stopped from reporting at G20 and other ‘politically sensitive’ events, it is very much hoped that the Commissioner will take immediate steps to ensure his officers act properly and support rather than obstruct the press in the important role they play in keeping the public informed, including of police wrong doing.

The pair were not disrupting police activity and had not had any contact with the police prior to the incident. They had complied with requests to leave the area but were forcibly removed and told to report from a distance.

Marc is the London Photographers’ Branch Secretary and Legal Rep and Jason is the branch Welfare Officer.

Hostile Reconnaissance

13th April, 2010

The London Photographers’ Branch is proud to announce a pre-election rally on Terror Laws, Civil Liberties & Press Freedom at 7pm on the 13th of April at Friends Meeting House in Euston.

The rally will be chaired by photographer Jess Hurd and we’ve got a top lineup of speakers who have dealt with the raft of terror laws that we face today:

Supporting the rally are the National Union of Journalists, NUJ London Central Branch, London Freelance Branch and the I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist! campaign group.

This is a free event, open to the public.

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