Police pay damages to photojournalists

The police’s problems with mistreating photographers just go on and on. Yesterday Helen reported on the latest incident – including the damning comment from a policeman who, when asked under what law he was demanding a photographer’s details, simply said “I don’t have to have any law”.

But also we have the recent news that the police are paying compensation after an incident outside the Greek Embassy in 2008 when they stopped two photojournalists taking photographs. As the Press Gazette reported,

Vallée had his camera pulled away from his face and the lens of Parkinson’s video camera was covered by officers.

The two men were then told by officers they were not permitted to film them.

The Metropolitan Police last week admitted the pair were unlawfully prevented from reporting by its officers and accepted liability for breaching both journalists’ rights to freedom of expression – as detailed in Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Each man was paid legal costs by the Met and damages of £3,500

The problems with photographers are bad enough, but do you really think that a policeman who – as in the first case above – thinks they have powers that go beyond what the law grants them, really behaves impeccably and within the law on every other occasion and it is only the site of a camera that makes them discard respect for the law?

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  • This won’t stop until police officers are forced to stop hiding behind the umbrella of the MET and are held personally liable for breaking the law. Why should I go to jail or be fined when I break the law (e.g. take someone’s camera from them, or illegally detain them) yet the police can do whatever they want.

    The issue won’t stop until the police are forced to obey the law like the rest of us and are punished properly for breaking laws. The police are given powers by us (through our government) that allow them to perform actions that would be illegal for normal citizens. There are clearly defined rules for when those actions are permitted. If the police perform those actions outside the remit of those rules then they should be punished like every other normal citizen. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, neither is a blue uniform; police should know the law better than the rest of us.

    It’s not like I can get my employer to pay a fine for me when I steal cameras, destroy photos, or assault/kidnap people while working for them, so why should the MET pay for their employees illegal activities and let the individuals off free?

    How can anyone have confidence in the police upholding the law when they break it themselves with impunity?

  • Exactly. This isn’t really about photography. It’s about having a police force that thinks it can make the law up as it goes along. Until the police start respecting the law, how can they accept any respect from the rest of us. Has a single chief constable been in any way penalised for the illegal retention of DNA?

    We need a big change in attitude from our police force and I don’t believe it’s going to happen without a change in personnel.

  • Andrew Suffield 29th Jun '10 - 5:29pm

    This won’t stop until police officers are forced to stop hiding behind the umbrella of the MET and are held personally liable for breaking the law.

    When complaints are filed with the IPCC, then in any case where a breach of the law may have occurred they pass the file on to the CPS for prosecution after their investigation is completed.

    There doesn’t seem to be any good data on how often this happens or what the CPS does with the cases (they’re obliged to proceed on the basis of how likely it is that they can secure a conviction, so it depends on the quality of evidence gathering by the IPCC).

    When no complaint is filed with the IPCC, there is no possibility of legal action against officers. Personal claims for compensation are independent of this; it’s unclear whether there was an IPCC investigation here.

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