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NUJ wins damages for photojournalist

5 January 2010

A photographer who was handcuffed, arrested and detained for eight hours for trying to take pictures has had his police record torn up after help from the NUJ.

Andrew Handley from Milton Keynes has also won more than £5,000 in damages for being unlawfully held in a cell after trying to take photographs of a car accident while working for MKNEWS.

The photographer was following police guidelines at the scene of the accident at Stony Stratford in Milton Keynes.

Both the law and guidelines produced by the Association of Chief Police Officers make it clear that the police are not allowed to restrict or prevent the press from taking photographs.

Despite staying behind the police cordon, the photographer was approached by a police sergeant who demanded he handed over the pictures and his camera. Andrew Handley explained he was perfectly within his rights to take photographs and contacted his editor who attempted to speak to the officer.

Instead, he was arrested, his hands were cuffed, he was cautioned and had his fingerprints and DNA taken. He was then detained for eight hours at Milton Keynes central police station.

He said:

"This is not the first time a police officer has told me to stop taking pictures.
"I explained that I was entitled to do my job and assumed I would be allowed to continue. Instead, I found myself with my hands cuffed behind my back and in a police cell.
"As the hours ticked past I started to get more and more worried. I thought it would all be cleared up in a matter of minutes.
"It's a great relief that I've been cleared. I was concerned that I'd have a criminal record and a caution hanging over my head when I knew perfectly well that I hadn't broken the law."

He contacted the NUJ, which instructed its lawyer, Thompsons Solicitors, to pursue a claim for compensation for unlawful imprisonment and assault.

Thames Valley Police rescinded the caution, apologised for the unlawful arrest and settled the claim for £5,250. Andrew Handley's fingerprint and DNA records have been deleted.

Roy Mincoff, legal officer at the NUJ, said: "Our member was perfectly entitled to carry out his work by taking photographs of the accident.

"It is a worrying scenario when the police restrict media freedoms in unlawful ways.
"We will be monitoring the way in which our agreed guidelines on how the police should deal with the media are enforced and will continue to raise these issues with senior officers, government ministers and members of parliament."

Note: the original posting of this article incorrectly stated that the caution was rescinded by Buckinghamshire Police Authority. The force concerned was Thames Valley Police. The above version of the article has been corrected.

Tags: , photographers, thames valley police, police, journalists detained, compensation, mknews