Saturday, 9 January 2010
POLICE HARASSMENT OF PHOTOGRAPHERS CONTINUES
There is considerable concern over the number of innocent photographers; professional and amateur, that are being stopped and on occasions arrested, for innocently taking photographs in public places under anti-terrorism legislation. None so far has given any cause to suggest they had been doing anything illegal; most were white British citizens (a couple were Austrian tourists) who were photographing London city landscapes. But, police and support officers are starting to get heavy with photographers elsewhere in the country as well.
A friend of mine, Andy Handley aged 55, a respected local press photographer, was arrested by an over-jealous traffic police sergeant in Milton Keynes during September 2006 while covering a road accident. He was not interfering with the accident scene, he was standing behind the police cordon and was merely doing his job. The police officer approached him and demanded that he hand over his camera and image storage card. He refused because he was doing nothing wrong but suffered the indignity of being hand cuffed for a considerable time. He was then taken to the local police station, spent several hours in the cells and had his DNA taken.
Had my colleague been bolshie or abusive (which is not in his nature) then the action taken by this police officer may have been understandable. But he wasn’t. He was told by photographing the crash he was committing an offence and was arrested for obstruction. His editor, David Gale of the Milton Keynes News later commented: “At a time when the police force are openly trying to free up police officers and rid them of the burden of additional paperwork etc, what sort of message do you think this sends out to the general public?“
I believe this entire incident could have been avoided. It concerns me that the officer in question felt it necessary to take such extreme action. After asking the National Union of Journalists to represent him via their lawyers, in January 2010 Andy received £5,250 compensation from Thames Valley Police and his DNA has been removed from the register. There is a further issue here; the waste of police funds. Had the police officer not acted so stupidly, money would have been saved. The police are constantly complaining about under-funding which makes me wonder how much is being wasted in compensation payments that could have been avoided. Perhaps the officers concerned should have it docked from their wages? At least this would make them think twice about their reckless actions.