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Police force photographer to delete scene-of-crime shots

2 August 2010

NUJ member and photographer, Carmen Valiño, was threatened with arrest and forced to delete her images while photographing the scene of a shooting in Hackney, East London.

The incident happened on 31 July as Carmen Valiño photographed a crime scene from outside the police cordon while on assignment for the Hackney Gazette.

She had identified herself as a journalist and showed her UK press card to the police, but a police sergeant told her that she was disrupting a police investigation and ordered her to hand over her camera.

After pointing out that she was in a public place, outside the cordon and that he had no right to take her camera, he grabbed her wrist and pulled out his handcuffs. Before he could put the cuffs on, she handed him her camera. He then asked her to show him the images and told her to delete them.

Carmen Valiño was told that she could come back in a few hours to photograph the scene.

The law and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) media guidelines state:

"Members of the media have a duty to take photographs and film incidents and we [the police] 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."

Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, said:

"The abuse of the law must stop. There is a gulf between photographers' legal rights and the current practices of individual police officers.
"The police should uphold the law, not abuse it – photographers acting in the public interest deserve better."

Tags: , photographers, police, acpo, press freedom, press cards, hackney gazette