Friday, December 09, 2011

Met Police compensate journalist arrested for taking photographs in public place

Picture by Jules Mattson©
Taking photographs is a public hazard, anti-social behaviour, silly, gay, stupid and dangerous says Metropolitan Police Inspector
Juleses Mattson was taking photographs of an Armed Forces Day parade when he was arrested by an Inspector who told him that he was a public hazard and who said that photographing in public was “anti-social behaviour.” The Inspector also described the act of taking photographs as “silly” and “gay” and “stupid.” And when Mattsson continued to state the lawfulness of his behaviour, the Inspector declared it was “dangerous” as he was “likely to be trampled on by soldiers” from the parade.
Mattson, who is a member of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), was represented by Chez Cotton, head of the Police Misconduct Department at Bindmans LLP, has received an out of court settlement and an apology from the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis.
On 26 June 2010 Mattsson, at the time a fifteen year old student was photographing the Armed Forces Day parade in Romford. Despite the public event taking place in the middle of the town centre, Metropolitan Police Officers claimed it was unlawful to photograph the parade. The officers, led by an Inspector, insisted he stopped taking photographs.
His solicitor, Chez Cotton, said: “The police had no legal power to stop him photographing in a public place. The Inspector attempted to justify his actions in shocking and absurd ways.”
Mattsson managed to record most of the conversation on his mobile phone but the dialogue was brought to an abrupt conclusion when the Inspector declared: “You know what, I consider you a threat under the Terrorism Act young man. I’ve had enough,”  and Mattson was manhandled down some stairs by a group of police officers. Mattson tried unsuccessfully to film the treatment he was being subjected to but an officer said that for him to be filmed was “breaching his privacy.” Mattsson was then arrested for breach of the peace and detained for 15 minutes before being released.
Chez Cotton prepared a transcript of the exchange and used this as evidence to support representations to the Met Police Commissioner that his officers had falsely imprisoned Mattsson, assaulted him and breached his right to report, under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights 1998.
The Directorate of Legal Services of the Metropolitan Police, on behalf of the Commissioner, agreed an out of court settlement. As well as paying compensation and meeting his legal costs, the Commissioner has also apologised to Mattsson for the treatment he received and has confirmed the force’s recognition that journalists have a right to report freely.
Chez Cotton added: “The treatment of the police towards our client, a fifteen year old, was shocking. The Inspector’s comments were designed to belittle. Our client politely and reasonably maintained that the police were not entitled to interfere with his right to report. In response the Inspector used serious anti-terrorism legislation, cynically telling Mr Mattson “I consider you a threat under the Terrorism Act young man. I’ve had enough.”
“The police have no legal power or moral responsibility to prevent or restrict what journalist record. It is unacceptable that the police interfered with Mr Mattsson’s right to report in any event, but for officers to attempt to intimidate a young reporter in this way is deplorable. It is right that the Commissioner has promptly apologised and paid a suitable level of damages.”
Roy Mincoff, the NUJ Legal Officer, said: “This was very poor and unlawful behaviour by a senior police officer, trying to intimidate a young NUJ photographer. It is not acceptable conduct, has no place in the police force and is hardly likely to gain respect for the police amongst the youth of the UK. The police have now recognised this, apologised and compensated our member. The NUJ will continue to hold the police to account to ensure that the vital rights of journalists, enshrined in law, are upheld, to enable reporting and photographing to continue, as part of the democratic framework of our society.”
The apology from the Metropolitan Police Service states:
“While reporting on the parade you were approached by Metropolitan Police Officers who prevented you from photographing the parade and subsequently arrested you for breach of the peace. The purpose of this letter is to apologise on behalf of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) for the distress you have suffered as a result of police actions. The MPS confirms its recognition that freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democracy and that photographers have a right to report freely. The MPS recognise that on 26 June 2010 they failed to respect press freedom in respect of yourself.”
You can see some of Jules Mattson's work at:

Audio of Mattson's arrest: ©Jules Mattson

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