Police rescind caution after unlawful arrest30 December 2009
A photographer who was handcuffed, arrested and detained for eight hours for trying to take pictures, has had his police record torn up after help from his union.
Andrew Handley, 55, from Milton Keynes was held in a cell after trying to take photographs of a car accident while working for the MKNews.
Andrew, who has been a photographer for 34 years, was following police guidelines to report the scene of the accident at Stony Stratford in Milton Keynes.
Legally journalists are free to take photographs in a public place. Under the Association of Chief Police Officers’ (APCO) guidelines on the press the police are not allowed to restrict or prevent photographs from being taken.
Despite staying behind the police cordon Andrew was approached by a police sergeant who demanded he handed over the pictures and his camera.
Mr Handley explained he was perfectly within his rights to take photographs and contacted his editor who attempted to speak to the officer.
Instead he was arrested. His hands were cuffed behind his back, he was cautioned, had his finger prints and DNA taken. He was then detained for eight hours at Milton Keynes central police station.
Mr Handley said: “This is not the first time a police officer has told me to stop taking pictures. I explained that I was entitled to do my job and assumed I would be allowed to continue. Instead I found myself with my hands cuffed behind my back and in a police cell. As the hours ticked past I started to get more and more worried. I thought it would all be cleared up in a matter of minutes
“It’s a great relief that I've been cleared. I was concerned that I’d have a criminal record and a caution hanging over my head when I knew perfectly well that I hadn’t broken the law.”
Following his release Mr Handley contacted his trade union, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), which instructed its lawyers Thompsons Solicitors to pursue a claim for compensation for unlawful imprisonment and assault.
Buckinghamshire Police Authority rescinded the caution, apologised for the unlawful arrest and after proceedings were issued settled the claim for £5,250. Mr Handley’s finger print and DNA records have been deleted.
Roy Mincoff Legal Officer at the NUJ said: “Our member was perfectly entitled to carry out his work by taking photographs of the accident. It is a worrying scenario when the police restrict media freedoms in unlawful ways.
“We will be monitoring the way in which our agreed guidelines on how the police should deal with the media are enforced and will continue to raise these issues with senior officers, government ministers and members of parliament.
“We will take appropriate action, including legal proceedings if necessary, if further breaches of the law occur.
“However, we hope that good practice will prevail in the future, with police officers at all levels being properly trained in, and regularly reminded of, the special role of the media as a public watchdog, recording and reporting events in the public interest.”
Nick Taylor from Thompsons Solicitors added: “Members of the media have a duty to take photographs and police officers have no legal power or moral responsibility to prevent or restrict what they record. The Association of Chief Police Officers’ guidelines on the press clearly state it is a matter for editors to decide what is published, not the police.”
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