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:

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.


Alan Lodge