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Kent police apologise over Climate Camp stop and search

15 April 2009

Kent police have apologised to a press photographer who was stopped and searched four times while covering last year's Climate Camp in the county.

An assistant chief constable has written to NUJ member Jess Hurd acknowledging that officers failed to recognise her press card as they should have done. The officer promised that lessons would be learned from the incident.

Jess Hurd had complained to the police with the support of the NUJ and Bindmans solicitors. She said in a statement that she had been searched once on 5 August 2008 and three times on 8 August. On one occasion, she had to queue for an hour to be searched.

After that, Jess Hurd was one of six journalists filmed as they filed their work, by a police surveillance team looking through the window of a McDonalds restaurant several miles from the climate camp.

Jess Hurd said:

"Surely this level of journalist surveillance is unnecessary. They already had our press card details and we were not on or near the camp. Coupled with the long delay being searched, I felt obstructed from doing my work."

Oon 9 August, near to the Kingsnorth power station, a police officer took her press card because it didn't "look authentic".

Jess Hurd said:

"My experience at climate camp was in complete contrast to a job I had the following week at the Treasury, where I photographed the Chancellor in his office and went through no searches, bag or otherwise, and was able to do my job without obstruction.
"Surely the harassment journalists faced covering the climate camp event is not acceptable?"

Press Freedom: Collateral Damage from Jason N. Parkinson/reportdigital on Vimeo.

In a letter Allyn Thomas, Assistant Chief Constable of Kent Police, said:

"It is clear that officers on the ground did not understand the accreditation arrangements for journalists and indeed did not generally recognise the press card that you (and others) presented.
"The failing appears to lie with the planning and management of the operation. This is my responsibility for which I am sorry.
"This issue of more effective liaison with journalists has been clearly identified through the debriefing process as an area for development."

Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary, said:

"Professional journalists carrying the press card should be free to work without harassment and intimidation.
"The police and the home office have made repeated promises that officers will be properly trained to deal with photographers at demonstrations but the problems keep on happening.
"Let's hope this welcome apology marks the start of more equitable treatment of journalists by police at protests and demonstrations."

Tags: , kent police, jess hurd, apology, climate camp, press cards, press freedom, police, surveillance, harassment