Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Wiltshire police pay compensation to journalist after unlawfully detaining him and preventing him from reporting

Wiltshire Police have paid damages and apologised to photojournalist, Bob Naylor, following an incident that happened when he went to report on a fatal fire onboard a narrowboat at Honeystreet near Pewsey on the Kennet & Avon Canal in May 2009

Bob Naylor in handcuffs on the ground at Honeystreet.
Picture by Diane Crofter-Harris HNA Media

The statement from Wiltshire Police says:

“On 22 May 2009 well-respected photojournalist Bob Naylor was reporting at a crime scene of a fire on a canal boat.

"Wiltshire Police have accepted that Mr Naylor was prevented from taking photographs and unlawfully detained and that his Article 10 rights under the European Convention on Human Rights were breached.

"Wiltshire Police apologise for this and have paid compensation and given this apology.

"Wiltshire Police confirm its recognition that freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democracy and that journalists have a right to report freely.

"Wiltshire Police recognise that on 22 May 2009 they failed to respect press freedom in respect of Mr Naylor contrary to Wiltshire Police’s own guidelines for working with members of the press.”

The attack on Bob Naylor happened when he attended a canal boat fire in which someone had died. He approached a police sergeant at the scene on the Kennet and Avon Canal at Honeystreet in Wiltshire and said he wanted to take a picture of the general scene. The policeman refused him permission, saying only that he ‘was in charge and would not allow it’ and eventually saying that this was  ‘out of common decency and respect for the deceased’.

Naylor decided it was pointless remaining at the scene and began to go back to his car, intending to call the Police Press Office to resolve the problem. As he was doing so he was seized from behind, forced to the ground and handcuffed and told that he was being arrested for breach of the peace.

Naylor was kept handcuffed on the ground for a considerable time before eventually being released.
Naylor’s solicitor, Chez Cotton of leading civil rights law firm Bindmans LLPsaid: "It is crucial in a democracy that the police respect and support a free press. Mr Naylor was working in his capacity as a professional journalist and seeking to taking photographs of an incident of legitimate public interest. Despite the police being fully aware of the accredited journalist status of my client and his right to photograph, they refused to allow him to work, threw him to the ground and then handcuffed him, and all in the most public and humiliating of ways. This sort of violence against journalists is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated. It is right that the Wiltshire Police have apologised and properly compensated Mr Naylor for their treatment of him.

"Mr Naylor was working in a professional capacity reporting an incident where there had been a fatality following a fire on a canal boat. Despite being out of the way and not interfering in any way with any police operation, Mr Naylor was forbidden to take photographs and then, as he was walking to his car to leave, forced to the ground by a number of officers and handcuffed. 

"The incident took place on a public highway and in full view of members of the community to which Mr Naylor belongs. As well as paying compensation and his legal costs, the Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police has also apologised to Mr Naylor for the treatment he received and has confirmed the force’s recognition that journalists have a right to report freely.

Roy Mincoff, the National Union of Journalists Legal Officer said: “This was an outrageous and utterly unwarranted way for a police officer to behave to an ordinary member of the public, let alone a professional photographer properly identifying himself. Bob Naylor’s rights were seriously violated. Members of the media have a duty and right to report and photograph events. 

"They are the public watchdog. We hope Wiltshire Police have learnt from this and ensure all its officers are aware of the Police/Media Guidelines and of the legal rights of the media. The NUJ welcomes the award of compensation and the apology to our member.”

Bob Naylor said, "This happened two years ago when photographers were all too often being attacked whilst going about their lawful work.  I have worked with Wiltshire and other Police Forces for decades and I have never had cause to take issue with them until this incident. It was clear that neither the Sergeant nor the Inspector at the scene were aware of the Chief Constable's guidelines for working with the press. Not only was I stopped from doing my job but the violent treatment meted out to me was wholly unacceptable.  

"I understand that the necessary training has now been given to all members of Wiltshire Police and cannot imagine that an incident like this would happen in the future. The NUJ has been working with the Metropolitan Police and other forces to help to improve the working relationship between the police and the press with, I believe, great success."

Police guidelines for working with the press

Guidelines adopted by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) in 2007 and by the Wiltshire Police Chief Constable state

“Members of the media are not only members of the public… It is important that we build good relationships with them, even when the circumstances are difficult. They have a duty to report many of those things that we have to deal with – crime, demonstrations, accidents, major events and incidents. Members of the media have a duty to report from the scene of many of the incidents we have to deal with.

“We should actively help them carry out their responsibilities provided they do not interfere with ours.

“Members of the media have a duty to take photographs and film incidents and we have no legal power or moral responsibility to prevent or restrict what they record. It is a matter for their editors to control what is published or broadcast, not the police. Once images are recorded, we have no power to delete or confiscate them without a court order, even if we think they contain damaging or useful evidence.

“If someone who is distressed or bereaved asks for police to intervene to prevent members of the media filming or photographing them, we may pass on their request but we have no power to prevent or restrict media activity. If they are trespassing on private property, the person who owns or controls the premises may eject them and may ask for your help in preventing a breach of the peace while they do so. The media have their own rules of conduct and complaints procedures if members of the public object.

“To help you identify genuine members of the media, they carry identification, which they will produce to you on request. Members of the media do not need a permit to photograph or film in public places. “

More at:
The Guardian
Hold the Front Page
Press Gazette 
The Media Briefing
Bindmans LLP
National Union of Journalists

1 comment:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.