On Saturday 18th March photographer and serial Indymedia contributor Alan Lodge - or Tash - was arrested after taking photos of armed police in public. Tash denied the charge of wilfully obstructing a police officer at Nottingham Magistrates Court on Monday March 27. Defending solicitor Paul Dhami told the court: "The officers took exception to his presence, and one took it upon himself to physically impede Tash and then arrested him." The arrest came only weeks after Nottingham police issued guidelines to their officers reminding them to respect journalists' rights.
Recent topics covered by Tash include: Council workers on strike 1 + 2, Nottingham's new rinky dinky, the campaign against incinerator expansion, Ashbourne's Shrovetide 'Mob' football and surveillance of Nottingham city centre.
Links: NUJ backs photographer in press freedom case | All articles published by Alan on Indymedia since 2003 | Previous article on Notts Indymedia about the incident | Guidelines for police and media at incidents | NUJ Freelance - May06 Defend the Nottingham One! | Trial Date now set for hearing at Nottingham Magistrates
On saturday 18th March, on the way to do some shopping and visiting in town, I diverted to follow some police activity, that turned out to be an armed turnout. Helicopter overhead and the heavy mob tearing about near Huntingdon Street and the Mansfield Road, with many guns, here in the centre of Nottingham. I tried to tell the armed policeman 'look, I'm just trying to do my job'. Now, I have photographed armed incidents before.
Being opposed in this activity by the police, is not so unusual for many of us. But this time, it is only weeks after the police issues some guidance to their officers, reminding them of their manners and that it is so permitted. As it further happens, I'm the chap that had been pressing for thier introduction, here in Nottinghamshire.
As I am currently facing charges resulting from this incident, I am not allowed to tell you all about the ins-and-outs of the case, so I offer you this release and some background info on the guidelines, and tell you that you will be hearing more about it in time. And, so will they.......!
NOTTINGHAM NUJ :: News Release - 27 March 2006
The National Union of Journalists is backing Nottingham photographer Alan Lodge in a court case which could have implications for journalists everywhere.
Mr Lodge was arrested and charged with wilfully obstructing a police officer after attempting to photograph armed police in the St Anns area of the city.
Mr Lodge formally denied the charge when he appeared before Nottingham Magistrates court today. Defending the case, Paul Dhami of Thompsons Solicitors told the court how Mr Lodge saw armed officers on Alfred Street in Nottingham on the afternoon of Saturday 19th March.
"The officers took exception to his presence, and one took it upon himself to physically impede Alan and then arrested him," Mr Dhami told the court.
"His bag containing camera equipment and his mobile phone were taken as evidence. Apart from the memory card inside the camera, there is no basis for this action."
Mr Dhami also referred to a set of guidelines recently agreed between the National Union of Journalists and Nottinghamshire's Chief Constable Steve Green. "It would appear that the officer in question was either not aware of these guidelines or chose to ignore him."
The prosecution asked for the case to be adjourned for five weeks for a pre trial review. This has been scheduled for 9.45am on 2 May at Nottingham Magistrates Court. Mr Lodge was given unconditional bail.
Speaking outside the court, NUJ Nottingham Branch Secretary, Kevin Stanley, said: "Cases like these raise important questions about the right for photographers to carry out their duties in a public place. We will continue argue vigorously that Alan has done nothing wrong and should not have been arrested."
What the guidance was supposed to cover .....
NOTTINGHAMSHIRE POLICE - GUIDELINES FOR THE POLICE AND MEDIA AT INCIDENTS
1. The media has a legitimate role to play in informing the public and they will attend the scene of incidents. The presence of a photographer or reporter at an incident does not of itself constitute any unlawful obstruction or interference.
2. Journalists need to collect information about an incident as quickly as possible. Some of this information may seem irrelevant, unimportant or improper to an officer. However, as long as the journalist does not break the law, or interfere with an investigation, or cross a cordon, the police officer should not impede the reporter. Journalists who break the law will be dealt with in the same manner as any other offender.
3. A crime scene remains closed to the media whilst evidence is being gathered and detailed forensic examinations take place. The reasons for denial of access should be explained to the journalist and access granted as soon as possible with permission from the Senior Investigating Officer.
4. Journalists have the right to photograph and report events that occur on public property. The police may invite journalists on to private property where an event of public interest has occurred and they have the permission of the owner. They should enter peacefully and not cause any physical damage or attempt to alter any details for photographic purposes. The rights of an owner of private property should be respected and may lead to journalists being asked to leave. If the owner of the property does not give permission then any attempt to gain access would be trespass.
5. Any journalist should be able to show relevant media identification if asked. At the scene of an incident this identification should be visible at all times.
6. Police officers should not restrict journalists from taking pictures or asking questions of other parties, even though the officer may disagree with the journalist's purpose. It is not a police officer's role to be the arbiter of good taste and decency. It is an editor's role to decide what to use.
7. 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.
8. In the event of a distressed or bereaved individual making a specific request for the media to leave them in peace the officer should pass this information on to the journalist. However, this is advice on which journalists and their editors must base their own decisions. If the situation becomes an identifiable Breach of the Peace then journalists, as any other citizen, have a duty to disperse if asked to do so.
9. Journalists should not park their vehicles in a way that will obstruct other traffic or hamper emergency vehicles or officers carrying out their lawful duty.
These guidelines have been sanctioned by Chief Constable Steve Green and the National Union of Journalists. If you would like more information or advice on a specific issue please call Nottinghamshire Police Corporate Communications on 0115 967 2080
NUJ calls on police forces to adopt crime scene guidelines
Published: Thursday, February 16, 2006
By Jon Slattery
New guidelines for police and journalists at crime and accident scenes and other incidents have been drawn up by Nottinghamshire Police and the NUJ. It's hoped that they will help prevent potential conflicts between police and journalists. The NUJ wants other forces across the country to adopt the new agreement. The nine-point guide — contained in a pocket-sized card — has been distributed to all Nottinghamshire Police personnel and NUJ members in the broadcasting, print, PR, photography and freelance sectors.
The guidelines say that "the media has a legitimate role to play in informing the public… the presence of a photographer or reporter at the incident does not itself constitute unlawful obstruction or interference." They also state: "Journalists need to collect information about an incident as quickly as possible. Some of this information may seem irrelevant, unimportant or improper to an officer.
However, as long as the journalist does not break the law, or interfere with an investigation, or cross a cordon, the police officer should not impede the reporter. Journalists who break the law will be dealt with in the same manner as any other offender." The guidelines say that police officers should not restrict journalists from taking pictures or asking questions of other parties, even though the officer may disagree with the journalist's purpose.
NUJ Nottingham branch secretary Kevin Stanley said: "We have had countless reports in the past of police officers being at the very least unhelpful to our members, and at worst obstructing them in their job of getting reasonable access to a crime scene and its environs. "We are now calling on the Association of Chief Police Officers to adopt such guidelines in all police forces."
Journalists and police draw up new crime scene guidelines
By HoldtheFrontPage staff
New guidelines to help journalists and the police work alongside each other at crime scenes have been drawn up by Nottinghamshire Police and the National Union of Journalists. The nine-point guidelines are designed to help diffuse potential conflicts between newsgatherers and officers in a variety of situations, and have been distributed to all Nottinghamshire Police personnel and NUJ members on a pocket-sized card.
They point out that the media has a legitimate role to play in informing the public and the presence of a photographer or reporter at an incident does not of itself constitute any unlawful obstruction or interference, but that any journalist who breaks the law will be dealt with in the way as any other offender. They also point out that police officers do not have the authority to stop photographers taking pictures or to confiscate equipment, and that journalists have the right to report events that occur on public property.
The document took more than a year to draw up, and the NUJ is now calling on the Association of Chief Police Officers to adopt such guidelines in all police forces. NUJ Nottingham branch secretary Kevin Stanley said: "We have had countless reports in the past of police officers being at the very least unhelpful to our members, and at worst obstructing them in their job of getting reasonable access to a crime scene and its environs.
"Similar guidelines are already in place in Staffordshire. They are a simple and effective way of reminding everyone of their responsibilities." Margaret Kirk, head of corporate communications for Nottinghamshire Police, added: "The NUJ has been extremely helpful in canvassing opinion and offering suggestions. "The beauty of this document was that it was born out of a genuine desire, on both sides, to improve a previously poor relationship."
The story has developed further, because now the MET Police, City of London Police and the British Transport Police, have all followed the model of the work done by us, here in Nottinghamshire
- EPUK - News - New Police Guidelines agreed
- NUJ Freelance - NUJ Met police guidelines
- NUJ Freelance Apr06 - Police agree on 'media duty'
- NUJ Freelance May06 Doing our job [with Brian Paddick, Deputy Assistant Commissioner at the MET]
- Metropolitan Police policy on relations with the media
The following guidelines have been agreed - so far - by the Metropolitan Police, City of London Police and British Transport Police. Guidelines for Metropolitan Police Service staff on dealing with media reporters, press photographers and television crews. I believe - and many of you believe - that a key factor in the way we work is how we treat one another and the members of the public with whom we come into contact. - Ian Blair, Commissioner. We will build trust by listening and responding. Be accessible and approachable. Build relationships. Encourage others to challenge and get involved.' - Met statement Our values
Media, police and the public
Members of the media are not only members of the public; they can influence the way the Metropolitan Police Service is portrayed. 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. This guide is designed to help you take the appropriate action when you have to deal with members of the media.
1. 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.
2. Where it is necessary to put cordons in place, it is much better to provide the media with a good vantage point from which they can operate rather than to exclude them, otherwise they may try to get around the cordons and interfere with police operations. Providing an area for members of the media does not exclude them from operating from other areas to which the general public have access.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. To help you identify genuine members of the media, they carry identification, which they will produce to you on request. An example of the UK Press Card is shown [on the paper guidelines].
6. Members of the media do not need a permit to photograph or film in public places.
7. To enter private property while accompanying police, the media must obtain permission, which must be recorded, from the person who owns or is in control the premises. We cannot give or deny permission to members of the media to enter private premises whether the premises are directly involved in the police operation or not. This is a matter between the person who owns or is in control the premises and the members of the media.
8. Giving members of the media access to incident scenes is a matter for the Senior Investigating Officer. The gathering of evidence and forensic retrieval make access unlikely in the early stages and this should be explained to members of the media. Requests for access should be passed to the Senior Investigating Officer who should allow access in appropriate cases as soon as practicable.
9. Advice and assistance in dealing with members of the media is available 24 hours a day via the Press Bureau at New Scotland Yard.
Thus, if the wheels have come off in Notts, at the first test, we wonder about the sincerity of police, in their wider adoption.
The story [can only] continue.