Hertfordshire Constabulary accepts liability for unlawful detention of journalist

  • 21 Dec 2022

The National Union of Journalists has welcomed an admission from the police force recognising journalist Ben Cawthra was falsely imprisoned following his arrest in November.

Cawthra was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance as he photographed activity at a Just Stop Oil protest. He was subsequently detained for 16 hours, action the force notes was unlawful and has accepted liability for.  

The NUJ condemned actions by the force whose officers also disregarded requests by journalists to provide press cards. Following intervention by the union and anger among journalists and society, an independent review was commissioned by the constabulary. It concluded that “police powers were not used appropriately” and made a series of recommendations, including for the NUJ training package to be completed by all officers engaged with public order activity.   

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: 

"The NUJ has always known that preventing journalists from carrying out their work is unlawful, breaches their rights and threatens public interest journalism.

“Although delayed, the admission from Hertfordshire Constabulary is a welcome one as Ben should never have been arrested or detained. The NUJ’s training package is an important resource, ensuring all police officers involved in public order situations are fully cognisant of the vital role the media plays.

“There must now be immediate action taken by the force to avoid this happening again."

Hertfordshire constabulary will pay compensation to Cawthra and the chief constable has apologised to the journalist.

The union has continued to engage with the National Police Chiefs’ Council and forces, emphasising the importance of training and the verifiable UK Press Card.

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