Posts Tagged ‘Metropolitan Police’

Met Apology for Photographer’s Parade Arrest

9th December, 2011

Police officers block Jules's camera, dislodging a lens hood, during the incident. photo Jules Mattsson

The London Photographers’ Branch congratulates its member Jules Mattsson in winning his case against the actions of the Met police when he was covering an Armed Forces Day parade in Romford last year. Jules kept calm, recorded the incident and argued for his rights in an intimidating encounter with the police. During the encounter he was abused, assaulted and threatened under the Terrorism Act and falsely imprisoned. Jules was 15 at the time and a student but had the support of branch officials at the scene and the national union in successfully pursuing justice with the help of leading civil rights solicitor and friend of the NUJ, Chez Cotton.

NUJ Legal Officer Roy Mincoff said:

“This was very poor and unlawful behaviour by a senior police officer, trying to intimidate a young NUJ photographer. It is not acceptable conduct, has no place in the police force and is hardly likely to gain respect for the police amongst the youth of the UK. The police have now recognised this, apologised and compensated our member. The NUJ will continue to hold the police to account to ensure that the vital rights of journalists, enshrined in law, are upheld, to enable reporting and photographing to continue, as part of the democratic framework of our society.”

Read the full Bindmans statement:

Met Commissioner compensates journalist arrested for taking photographs in public place and told to stop “running round acting silly, being stupid and gay”

 

We Are Press Not Police Intelligence

6th April, 2011

In the days following the TUC “March for the Alternative” anti-cuts protest on Saturday 26 March 2011 some media outlets published rogues galleries of 18 people sought by police for questioning, with some of the images gathered from news outlets, not just CCTV. One television news report freeze-framed on a masked protestor, the narrator saying: “Do you recognise this person?”

The Metropolitan police force have requested all of the BBC’s footage of the day to use in their investigation into the disorder.

On Tuesday 5 April 2011 motion the LPB committee overwhelmingly passed a motion condemning in the strongest terms news-gathered images and video used as police evidence material and the publication of police rogue galleries as news reports.

Covering protests, both nationally and internationally, is already difficult and often dangerous. The danger to photographers and videographers is increased dramatically when protestors fear the images and video gathered whilst reporting events could be used by the state.  With many accounts of injuries and equipment damage already reported from March 26, the actions of these news outlets only increases that risk for  journalists working in the street.

Met Dedicated Phone for Media Workers

25th March, 2011

The Metropolitan Police Press Bureau have set up a dedicated line for media workers covering the March for the Alternative demonstration on Saturday 26 March.

Any photographer or other lens-based media encountering difficulties with the police can call 07917 556824.

“We can do anything under the terrorism act”

10th December, 2010

NUJ press release on branch Chair Jess Hurd‘s successful IPCC complaint:

The NUJ has hit out at police claims they ‘can do anything under the Terrorism Act’, following the success of photographer Jess Hurd in a complaint to the Independent Police Complaint Commission (IPCC).

Ms Hurd, one of the founders of the ‘I am a photographer, not a terrorist’campaign and Chair of the NUJ London Photographers’ Branch , was stopped by police officers under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 whilst filming the wedding reception of a traveller couple in the City of London, as part of an on-going documentary project.

Despite confirming she was a member of the press and showing a valid Press Card she was subjected to a stop and search under the controversial legislation.

Section 44 does not require an officer to have ‘reasonable suspicion’ in order to carry out a search and has now been found by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) to breach Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights on the grounds that the powers were too broadly drawn and there were inadequate safeguards against abuse.

Following an outcry over the use of the law against professional and amateur photographers the Government has amended the police’s powers pending the outcome of a review of counter-terrorism powers, including the use of terrorism legislation in relation to photography.

The IPCC acknowledged that in relation to the suspension of the use of Section 44 “it is cases such as this that have helped in bringing about such changes”.

NUJ Deputy General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet said:

“It is an abuse of power that the police acted in this way and we congratulate Jess for challenging them and helping to bring pressure to bear to get these powers scrapped”.

Ms Hurd’s solicitor Chez Cotton said:

“It is critical that the police are not allowed to use very serious counter-terrorism measures as a general stop and search provision as has happened in my client’s case and has happened in many other cases involving NUJ members and amateur photographers alike. The use, or threatened use, of terrorism powers against journalists has had a chilling effect on their ability to report freely and without fear of arrest.  The current review of key counter terrorism and security measures must be used to ensure any powers given to the police cannot be misused in an arbitrary and discriminatory way, otherwise such powers will not enjoy the support or confidence of the public.”
NUJ Legal Officer Roy Mincoff said:

“We welcome the IPCC’s findings in Jess Hurd’s favour. These events should never have taken place in the first instance. The role of journalists, including photographers, as the public watchdog, must be respected. It is one of the essential elements of a democratic society that journalists are entitled to inform the public, which itself is entitled to be informed. In addition the police should not store information on journalists who are doing their job and have committed no crime.”

NUJ General Secretary, Jeremy Dear, said:

“NUJ member Jess Hurd was detained for more than 45 minutes by police during a wedding in London’s Docklands, her camera was forcibly removed and she was told the police can do anything under the Terrorism Act. The NUJ believes legislation should not be abused and no journalist should be singled out by the police. The police service has no legal powers or moral responsibility to prevent or restrict photographer’s work. The NUJ will continue to take action in support of our members when they are targeted by police, we welcome the judgment from the IPCC especially the acknowledgement that the use of stop and search powers are not seen as fair or effective.”

The complaint made by Ms Hurd:

Police officers, who were aware that a wedding reception was taking place at the hotel in London Docklands, and had seen Ms Hurd filming guests as they were leaving, approached her to see ‘what she was doing’.

Although Ms Hurd could see no legitimate reason for their interest, she wished to co-operate and resolve matters swiftly, and explained to the officers that she had been professionally engaged to cover the wedding and was an accredited photojournalist.

She offered her Press Card so that her credentials could be checked by the police, there being in force nationally agreed Guidelines between the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and media organisations (see resources at the end of the press release).  Each accredited NUJ member has a unique PIN number and photographic ID, and the police have access to a 24 hour ‘hotline’ that they can call to verify the personal details and identity of a legitimate member of the press. The Guidelines set out that the police will recognise the holder of a valid Press Card, issued by the UK Press Card Authority Limited, as ‘a bona fide news gatherer’.

The Guidelines are comprehensive and should be known and followed by all police officers.

A second officer, aware of Ms Hurd’s status as a journalist and that her footage had been obtained through legitimate journalistic activity, said he wished to view the film.  He said she was being stopped under ‘Section 44 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act’.

Ms Hurd protested that she was clearly a journalist and as the footage was professional they could not interfere.  Ms Hurd was then told that she could have been ‘doing hostile reconnaissance’, although this was entirely at odds with the circumstances confirmed by Ms Hurd and supported by the evidence of the reality of the situation.

Ms Hurd’s camera was forcibly taken from her by the officer, despite her protests that there were safeguards in place to ensure a free press. The officer’s response was: “We can do anything under the terrorism act”.

A third officer took the camera and watched footage with a further officer who was still in the police car, some distance from Ms Hurd.  She was fearful that her entire days work could be wiped and was by now feeling intimidated, as she was in a dark car park being questioned in an intimidating way by police officers.

Ms Hurd was informed that she could not use any footage of the police car or police officers and that if she did there would be ‘severe penalties’, although these were not specified.

The officer concluded the matter confirming to Ms Hurd that if she did want to use the footage then she would have to go through the Metropolitan Police press office, as it was ‘his copyright’, and, although the officers were not undercover at that point, they might be at some point in the future.

In relation to Ms Hurd’s complaint, the IPCC accepted that:

“Arguably with the assistance of hindsight the officers could have handled this incident differently, from a public confidence and satisfaction perspective.”

Human Rights Day is celebrated annually across the world on 10 December.

Branch member wins £30,000 compensation for G20 assault

10th December, 2010

Press release from Bindmans about branch member David Hoffman‘s successful legal action against the police:

The well known and highly respected National Union of Journalist member David Hoffman, who is represented by Chez Cotton, head of the Police Misconduct Department at leading civil rights law firm Bindmans LLP, has received £30,000 damages today from the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis.

Mr Hoffman was working in a professional capacity covering the G20 protests.  Despite being out of the way and not interfering with any police operation, an inspector in full riot gear ran towards Mr Hoffman and hit him in the face with a shield, fracturing Mr Hoffman’s teeth. As well as paying compensation and the cost of the extensive dental work that has been required, the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis has also apologised to Mr Hoffman for the treatment he received and has confirmed the force’s recognition that journalists have a right to report freely.

Mr Hoffman’s solicitor Chez Cotton says:

“Journalists such as my client are critical in disseminating information into the wider public domain. Reporters and photojournalists play a significant role recording political unrest, political events, which includes recording protest and, if it arises, police wrong doing. That my client was assaulted by a police officer when carrying out this essential function, and brutally so, is shocking. Fortunately with photographic and film evidence of the incident and detailed testimony, Mr Hoffman has succeeded in holding the police to account. It is absolutely right that the Metropolitan Police Force has paid significant damages, given an apology and confirmed recognition and respect for a free press.”

The apology from the Metropolitan Police states:

“On 1 April 2009 well-respected social issues photographer David Hoffman was recording the G20 protests in the City of London. The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) recognise that Mr Hoffman was entitled to report on that day but was caused injury by an MPS officer during the event, preventing him from doing so. 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 apologise to Mr Hoffman for the treatment he received and have paid compensation.”

NUJ Legal Officer Roy Mincoff said:
“David Hoffman suffered very painful injuries as a result of this entirely unnecessary gratuitous and violent assault on him while properly and professionally going about his work. The role of journalists, including photographers, as the public watchdog, must be respected. It is one of the essential elements of a democratic society that journalists are entitled to inform the public, which itself is entitled to be informed. The NUJ has fought for this to be recognised, and is pleased that the Police has now accepted responsibility and properly compensated Mr Hoffman.”

Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary said:

“No journalist should be singled out by the police and the police service has no legal powers or moral responsibility to prevent or restrict photographer’s work. Journalists have a duty to record and report on public protests as well as the behaviour of the police.  David’s case is a shocking example of police brutality and totally unacceptable. We believe that attacks on working journalists are attacks on democracy and on society’s ability to make informed decisions. The NUJ will continue to take action in support of our members when they are targeted by police.”

Background to the case

Mr Hoffman, a well respected social issues journalist and member of the National Union of Journalists, attended in a professional capacity to report on the G20 protests on 1 April 2009 in the City of London. Throughout the event Mr Hoffman was carrying professional equipment and had his Press Card clearly visible around his neck and was obviously a journalist.

Mr Hoffman took photographs at various sites throughout the day.  At around 4 p.m. police in the Bank area stopped Mr Hoffman and others from moving forward and tried to push everyone back.  However, due to the size of the crowd behind Mr Hoffman there was nowhere to move back to.

After about ten minutes the police intensified their action and started to push Mr Hoffman and the others in the crowd using their shields and batons aggressively, even though there was still nowhere to move back to. Mr Hoffman was standing beside a line of police officers and was for no reason pushed hard by an officer, to one side.

Mr Hoffman saw a space and was anxious to avoid any further trouble.  He moved to one side so that he was further away from the police. Whilst doing this, Mr Hoffman was suddenly hit for no reason with considerable weight in the back by a policeman using his shield. This threw him violently into the back of a man in front of him.

Mr Hoffman moved even further away form the police and was  partly shielded by some builders’ boards.  He remained in this position, out of the way, and watched the events around him with his camera raised, ready to report. He was doing absolutely nothing wrong and was photographing without interfering in any police operation.

A few seconds later a heavily built inspector in full riot gear suddenly left the group of police officers he was with, ran directly towards Mr Hoffman, and deliberately hit him hard in the face with a shield. The shield made contact with great force, causing Mr Hoffman considerable pain and causing one of his cameras to fly round where it was knocked, causing damage to the equipment. Mr Hoffman was shocked and in pain from the shield hitting him and was thrown backwards.

It was subsequently confirmed that Mr Hoffman’s teeth had been fractured.  Mr Hoffman instructed Chez Cotton of Bindmans LLP to act on his behalf and the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. Proceedings were issued and the claim was settled shortly after the Particulars of Claim were served. The terms of settlement were agreed by Consent between the parties. The Central London County Court sealed the agreement at the beginning of December and the Commissioner of Police has today paid the damages in full.

Contacts for today’s student protests

30th November, 2010

As with previous events the Metropolitan Police have setup a number for journalists covering today’s student protests in Westminster to call if they are having problems with the police, not recognising the UK Press Card etc. The number is 07917 556824.

NUJ members can also contact NUJ legal officer Roy Mincoff during office hours on 020 7843 3721. Outside of office hours or in an emergency you can call the 24hr NUJ legal helpline on 0800 5877530.

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.

Police press liaison for Papal Visit

17th September, 2010

Members of the media were allowed access to the police operation briefing on the Papal visit. Commander Bob Broadhurst, Gold command, will be in charge of the operation. Chief Inspector Ian Thomas, Silver command, advised all senior officers of all units of the 4,000-strong police operation to follow the ACPO guidelines and respect the UK press card. Any doubts over press cards must be checked by using the phone number on the back of the card.

At the briefing police said that the intenational terrorist threat is set at severe, although the threat to the Pope and the Sequito (Papal staff) are considered low. The threat against the Prime Minister is moderate. Although police reminded that threat levels have been low before when assassinations have succeeded. They also said that there will be a large number of armed officers covering the two day visit, both overt and covert, on the ground and at elevated positions. Armed officers on the ground will also be armed with Tazers.

The dedicated number for journalists to contact police press liaison officers is: 07917 556824.

The NUJ Emergency Legal number is 0800 5877530, this is for NUJ members who need emergency legal assistance only. Branch Legal rep Marc Vallée will also available on 07947 181204.

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

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.