According to the National Union of Journalists and the Union's London Photographers' Branch, member Carmen Valino was photographing a crime scene from outside a police cordon while on assignment for the Hackney Gazette when she was approached by a police sergeant.
Despite identifying herself as a press photographer, the police sergeant told Valino that she was disrupting a police investigation and ordered her 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," says the NUJ. "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."
The incident has prompted a call by the Union's general secretary for police officers to respect media guidelines issue by the Association of Chief Police Officers. "The abuse of the law must stop," says Jeremy Dear. "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."
The ACPO media guidelines were drafted and agreed by numerous photographers' organisations and representatives of the ACPO. They state that members of the media "have a duty to report many of those things that we have to deal with - crime, demonstrations, accidents, major events and incidents," and that police officers "have no legal power or moral responsibility to prevent or restrict what they record." The guidelines also state that, in relation to photographs, officers have "no power to delete or confiscate them without a court order."
A spokeswoman for Hackney Police has yet to return BJP's calls for comment.
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