Bolton journalistic video footage production order case ends
19 April 2013
The Greater Manchester Police (GMP) production order application for journalistic video footage concluded at Manchester Crown Court on Wednesday 17 April 2013.
GMP applied for a production order for footage shot by NUJ member and freelance video journalist Jason N. Parkinson at a counter-protest, organised by Unite Against Fascism (UAF), against an English Defence League (EDL) demonstration in Bolton in March 2010.
Initially GMP applied for a court order to seize all footage shot over a two-hour period, some 50 minutes of footage. The NUJ argued this was yet another "fishing expedition" and made similar arguments as in the Dale Farm production order case when the application by Essex police was rejected by the High Court in May 2012.
The Bolton production order involved four months of silence from GMP, not providing specific information relating to the investigation, not disclosing what the investigation was about and what footage they had or had tried to obtain already.
GMP finally disclosed their evidence in March 2013, following a court adjournment in February, revealing they were seeking footage that would likely be of substantial value in filling a three-second gap in the material they had already gathered regarding a very serious charge against a police officer of attempting to pervert the course of justice.
Only at this stage did GMP informe the NUJ that the production order related to the events leading up to an anti-fascist protestor, Alan Clough, being arrested.
Based on legal advice, Jason N. Parkinson opposed the order for the full two hours footage, but agreed to accept a revised Court Order to release footage shot at the specific time and location of the incident leading to Alan Clough's arrest, less than 5 minutes footage in all.
As part of this settlement, GMP had to agree not to retain the footage after their investigation and proceedings concluded and agreed to pay costs to the NUJ.
Jason N. Parkinson said:
"We have again defended journalistic material from another police fishing trip, we have challenged the production order, forced the authorities to obey the law to the letter and we have stopped them retaining the footage for any future intelligence databases."
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:
"The NUJ has been one of a few organisations prepared to consistently stand up and fight for the protection of sources. It is not acceptable that the police continue to use production orders to attempt to obtain large amounts of journalistic footage.
"We are pleased the case has been resolved so that Jason can get on with his job as a front-line journalist reporting in the public interest."
Barry McCall, NUJ president, said:
"This important case has once again confirmed that the police cannot attempt to use news photographers as evidence gatherers on their behalf by going on trawls through their material.
"The Greater Manchester Police have been forced to accept this principle and have also had to agree not to retain the very small amount material obtained following the conclusion of their investigation and any proceedings which may arise from it. Jason Parkinson is to be congratulated on his courageous stands in this case and the earlier Dale Farm case."
Roy Mincoff, NUJ legal officer, commented:
"The police have had to acknowledge that, whilst the protection of sources is not an absolute right and has legal restrictions, the police must comply with the law. That protection for journalists is in the public interest.
"The NUJ upholds these vital tenets of a democratic society whenever possible and are pleased to again demonstrate the importance of these hard won rights under the European Convention of Human Rights and the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE), which are now under renewed threat from Government proposals."
In 2012, with the full support of the NUJ, Jason Parkinson was the only freelancer that fought an eight-month battle alongside major national broadcasters to stop Essex police seizing footage spanning the full two days of the Dale Farm Irish Traveller eviction.
A Judicial Review at the Royal Courts of Justice in May 2012 overturned the unlawful production order, because it did not fulfil the most basic criteria for an application under PACE.
Background information about the Dale Farm production order