April 2008


interview we did with Austin Mitchell MP

http://web.splashcast.net/web_watch/?code=LEWA4904VU

and on Radio4

Here’s a long version of the interview we did with Austin Mitchell MP. We also spoke to Mark Whitaker and to Peter Smythe, who chairs the Metropolitan Police Federation.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ipm/2008/04/youve_been_framed.shtml

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John Toner is an eminent and respected union leader, with experience, integrity, energy and vision, and an enviable record in serving the NUJ and has a proven track record.

John has been a member of the NUJ for 27 years, an eminent and respected member of the NEC representing Scotland for 9 years, and served as both President and Honorary General Treasurer of the NUJ. He was Northern Organiser for 4 years before taking up the job of Freelance Organiser in 2001. He is quick-witted, efficient and unflappable. The NUJ needs his experience, integrity, energy and vision. The NUJ needs an effective and experienced Deputy General Secretary

http://www.votejohntoner.com

“I’m backing John because… he has a range of experience that is useful to me as a photographer & freelance member. Additionally, and beyond the usual fees and copyright, is intimately aware of the other matters that make our lives so difficult. Police Vs media, rights-grabbing, non-crediting, late/no payment …. and so on!”
– Alan Lodge (Nottingham)

A Labour MP (Mitchell, Austin) has tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the House of Commons condemning police action against lawful photography in public places.

His EDM reads as such:

That this House is concerned to encourage the spread and enjoyment of photography as the most genuine and accessible people’s art; deplores the apparent increase in the number of reported incidents in which the police, police community support officers (PCSOs) or wardens attempt to stop street photography and order the deletion of photographs or the confiscation of cards, cameras or film on various specious ground such as claims that some public buildings are strategic or sensitive, that children and adults can only be photographed with their written permission, that photographs of police and PCSOs are illegal, or that photographs may be used by terrorists; points out that photography in public places and streets is not only enjoyable but perfectly legal; regrets all such efforts to stop, discourage or inhibit amateur photographers taking pictures in public places, many of which are in any case festooned with closed circuit television cameras; and urges the Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers to agree on a photography code for the information of officers on the ground, setting out the public’s right to photograph public places thus allowing photographers to enjoy their hobby without officious interference or unjustified suspicion.

Photographers lobby parliament over police curbs :: Press Gazette
Labour MP Austin Mitchell is planning to take a delegation of photographers to the Home Office to protest about the growing number of cases in which police officers and others try to stop professional and amateur photographers taking pictures in public places.

Mitchell, MP for Grimsby, has already tabled an Early Day Motion at the Commons which has been signed by 131 MPs, giving it wide cross-party support.
Mitchell said he tabled the motion because of the increasing number of occasions in which police and others had tried to stop people taking pictures in public places.

“People have complained about photographers being stopped from taking pictures by police, PCSOs, wardens and by various officious people,” he said.

“People have a right to take photographs and to start interfering with that is crazy. It seems crazy when the streets are festooned with closed-circuit television cameras that the public should be stopped from using cameras.

“The proliferation of digital cameras and mobile phones with cameras means that everybody carries a camera these days.”

Mitchell said that last year he was challenged when taking a picture of the view while visiting the Leeds-Liverpool canal by a lock-keeper who wanted to know why he was taking photographs.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has also protested about the growing number of cases in which police and others have stopped press photographers doing their jobs.

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear staged a one-man protest outside the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police on March 28 to highlight the failure of law enforcement officers to protect media freedoms.

Press photographers are growing increasingly frustrated because they are regularly obstructed from doing their jobs by police officers who do not understand the law.

Dear said his one-man demo was intended to help senior police officers spot the difference between a protester and photographers covering the protest.

Mitchell’s Early Day Motion reads: “That this House is concerned to encourage the spread and enjoyment of photography as the most genuine and accessible people’s art; deplores the apparent increase in the number of reported incidents in which the police, police community support officers (PCSOs) or wardens attempt to stop street photography and order the deletion of photographs or the confiscation of cards, cameras or film on various specious ground such as claims that some public buildings are strategic or sensitive, that children and adults can only be photographed with their written permission, that photographs of police and PCSOs are illegal, or that photographs may be used by terrorists; points out that photography in public places and streets is not only enjoyable but perfectly legal; regrets all such efforts to stop, discourage or inhibit amateur photographers taking pictures in public places, many of which are in any case festooned with closed circuit television cameras; and urges the Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers to agree on a photography code for the information of officers on the ground, setting out the public’s right to photograph public places thus allowing photographers to enjoy their hobby without officious interference or unjustified suspicion.”

In February, photojournalist Marc Vallée, who was injured while covering the “Sack Parliament” demonstration in 2006, received an apology and an out-of-court settlement from the Metropolitan Police.

In May last year, Thames Valley Police rescinded a caution which was given to photographer Andy Handley, of the MK News in Milton Keynes, after he took pictures at a road accident scene.

The force rescinded the caution, which was deleted from the Police National Computer, after NUJ took up the case.

Handley was arrested and handcuffed after refusing to give a police sergeant the memory card from his camera, which carried pictures he had taken from a public road and from behind police tapes at the crash scene at Stony Stratford, Bucks.

http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=1&storycode=40875&c=1

 

Open letter to Jeremy Dear
General Secretary
National Union of Journalist

Hello Jeremy
Thank you for your efforts in highlighting our continued difficulties with police, these continue in spite of the guidelines and agreement that we had. The one man show at Scotland Yard might get it discussed a bit more in our own professional circles, but I still wonder if there will be any progress with the police themselves. Further thanks for coming to Nottingham and being a supporter in my own case here.

I think in a democratic society like ours (??) the more senior police managers can only agree with us, that it is not an offence to take photographs in a public place and to pursue stories of public interest. Hence, I guess, we will find little opposition in agreeing the guidance with them. You will know that the real problems begin with the lower ranks.

Since my own arrest for obstruction, my adventures continue with a situation at least once a week.

You may know that on the Nottinghamshire Police Guidelines cover, it says: “Guidelines for police and media at incidents”.

On several occasions, I have been told by police that: “ah mate, no, it’s not an incident, it’s a scene!!”. For this to have happened several times, clearly there have been some watchroom conversations about it all, and to think up devices. Then, at a couple of criminal justice events, I found myself in conversation with middle rank Inspectors and Chief Inspectors who knew nothing of the issue of these guidelines locally. They were to have been widely distributed within the force after agreement.

A more common reaction though, when police are trying to prevent pictures being taken or I’m being hassled about my presence, is simply to push them back at me, without reading them or acknowledgement. Thus to plead continued ignorance of their provisions. Basically they just don’t care. Down here on the street, nothing has changed, all is the same as ever.

There is now another level of policing, non-warranted officers, wardens etc …. I have to say that they are even less clued-up, than the average policemen and these can be even more officious, and lack understanding of their powers.

John Toner was interviewed for this piece, you might find interesting:

 http://current.com/items/88856223_you_can_t_picture_this

Since they do lack such understanding, I have asked locally if the wardens have been issued with the guidelines. I have been told that it was not relevant to do so and was not appropriate. Well, in the light of experience, I think it is.

You may also know that when we negotiated the Nottinghamshire Guidelines locally, I had made freedom of information act enquiries of all police forces [john has copies of all these], asking about there treatment of photographers at situations. It was the differences of reply that leads us to suppose that national guidance is required.

I think experience has shown though, that even if all is taken nationally, there is no consequence for them being ignored by police, and so they are. They do not form part of police operational orders. I know only to well of what happens to us if we are accused of dis-obeying police instructions, we get arrested and convicted. I understand the Legal Officer was taking steps to see if these guidelines provisions could be included in the police and criminal evidence act. As far as I can see, this is the only way that the police will respect them, that if by ignoring them, that they break the law themselves.

Anyway, as I started, I just want to say thanks for your effort. It’s such a long road, and quite tiring.

Regards

Alan Lodge

Title: Solo protest by NUJ chief
Feature: news
Date: 2 April 2008

The National Union of Journalists held a one-man protest in an effort to highlight concerns over police harrassment. Olivier Laurent reports

 

Jeremy Dear, the National Union of Journalists’ general secretary, stood outside the New Scotland Yard headquarters of the Metropolitan Police on 28 March for one hour in protest at worsening relations with press photographers. The one-man demonstration calling on police to ‘respect media freedom’, was attended by a dozen photographers there to cover the event. It was designed to show police forces the difference between a protester and photographers.

Dear also planned to hand in a letter to Ian Blair, the Met commissioner, however, the police refused to accept it and asked for it to be posted instead.

In May last year, journalist unions and the Association of Chief Police Officers agreed on guidelines to help improve relations between the police and press photographers. The decision to adopt these guidelines was designed to improve on worsening relations, notably during the London bombings of July 2005, when press photographers complained of ‘gratuitous obstruction’ (BJP, 30 May 2007).

However, recent incidents have raised questions as to whether the guidelines are being followed by police forces. ‘What’s really frustrating is that they are already in place which should deal with the problems we experience,’ says Dear. ‘We’re not even campaigning for a change to the rules. All we want is for the policy that currently exists to be properly enforced.’

Last month, the Met settled out of court with freelance photographer Marc Vallee, who was hospitalised after covering the unlawful ‘Sack Parliament’ protest in London on 09 October 2006. In March, Lawrence Looi, a photographer from the West Midlands-based photographic agency, News Team, was asked by two police officers to delete photographs he had taken of a protest. Looi agreed to delete the images under duress, but has filled a complaint against the officers (BJP, 05 March).

The Met has also launched a new anti-terrorism campaign asking the public to report any ‘odd’ seeming photographer. While the Met police ‘reassures photojournalists they are not going to act on impulse,’ adding ‘it will analyse all evidence before action is taken – if action is taken at all’, photographers remain worried that they will be the targets of increased checks while on the job.

In its letter to the Met, the Union says: ‘The guidelines recognise this important relationship, but it seems that in the majority of cases individual officers are not aware of the existence of the guidelines and NUJ members have reported numerous cases where they are not being followed. Many of these reports are made by photographers, who cite examples of police officers obstructing them in their work, confiscating their equipment, forcing them to delete images or of physically removing photographers when they are lawfully exercising their duties.’

The Union asks that police officers be given copies of the guidelines at briefings that take place in advance of major public events. For more information, visit www.nuj.org.uk.