Student photographer vs Police


Title: Student photographer hassled by Notts Police
Author: Nottingham Indymedia

Tags: photographer journalist photos police
Neighbourhood: occupy_nottingham market_square nottingham

On Monday 21st November, Lewis Stainer, a student photographer covering the occupation in Market Square, witnessed the arrest of someone from the camp. He attempted to video the arrest and was promptly intimidated into handing over the video tape. After pressure from the National Union of Journalists and extensive publicity Notts Police agreed to hand back the video footage.

On the newswire: Student photographer interviews on tape still held | BBC Radio Nottingham Interview | Student Photographer’s material taken by police | Photography Advice and guidance

The police claim that they are entitled to seize video evidence under Section 19 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984 as – they claim – it contains evidence of relating to the alleged theft. However, Lewis only filmed the arrest. As Lewis notes, “I can’t see how the arrest would be helpful in the criminal investigation, it was just officers putting handcuffs on someone.” It ought to be obvious even to the dimmest copper that shoplifters don’t usually allow themselves to be filmed while committing the offence. It would rather tend to draw unwanted attention.

The police’s argument is also contradicted by their own “guidelines for police and media at incidents” Point 7 of which states “Police officers do not have the authority to prevent a person taking a photograph or to confiscate cameras or film, and such conduct could result in criminal, civil or disciplinary action.” We can see in this case what those “guidelines” mean in practice. Not only are Notts Police not discipling the officers responsible, they are rushing to their defence.

Lewis was originally given back some of the footage on a CD, but this could not be edited and had no sound. Additionally the footage of the arrest itself had been completely deleted. This he described as “unacceptable.” It was also useless for his college project.

Raising the profile of this incident, Mr Stainer has done a number of interviews with the BBC (radio and TV) and Central TV. He has also had support from the NUJ. It is clear, however, that this is not an unusual event with a regular stream of cases from around the country of police overstepping their legal powers to harass professional and amateur photographers. There are likely many more which go unchallenged and thus unheard of. Hopefully the embarrassment caused by this case will make local coppers think twice before trying it on again.