NUJ welcomes review findings into journalists' arrests at Just Stop Oil protests

  • 23 Nov 2022

An independent review following arrests by Hertfordshire constabulary has outlined police powers were not used appropriately.

The report by Cambridgeshire constabulary was requested by Hertfordshire chief constable Charlie Hall, following intervention from the NUJ and widespread public anger over the arrests of journalists Tom Bowles, Rich Felgate and Charlotte Lynch earlier this month.

The NUJ condemned arrests and raised significant concerns about police officers disregarding requests from journalists to show their press cards, and called upon the National Police Chiefs’ Council to take immediate action to ensure such incidents were prevented in future.

When considering proportionality, the review states:

10.23 The Review Team believed that the Bronze Plan almost exclusively endorsed arrest as the only intervention available to this approach did not differentiate between people and did not consider the balance of rights (no distinction on activity).

10.24 Police powers were not used appropriately. When considering the rights, duties and responsibilities connected to the function of journalism, it is important to note the judgement resulting from Gsell v Switzerland. There is evidence to suggest the potential for the arrests to amount to an ‘unlawful interference’ with the individual’s freedom of expression under Article 10 ECHR.

10.25 Commanders are obliged to make professional judgements based on information and experience. The direction to arrest was given to officers and no alternative was considered or captured within a plan/log. The interactions of officers all suggest that arrest was the likely outcome regardless of the information obtained.

Séamus Dooley, NUJ assistant general secretary, said:

“The National Union of Journalists welcomes the outcome of the independent review, which vindicates the strong stand taken by the NUJ.  

“The journalists were carrying out their work in a legitimate manner and should never have been arrested and detained. The behaviour of police officers signals the need for urgent training and planning processes to ensure a repeat of recent incidents does not occur. We have worked closely at local and national level to promote a greater awareness of the importance of media access and a greater understanding of how journalists operate. 

“Journalists were shocked to uncover the treatment of colleagues and the clear threat to media freedom and freedom of expression. We welcome the important recognition that police powers were not used appropriately. 

“Hertfordshire Constabulary should now adopt the recommendations including improving officer training through resources provided by the union. We need a consistent approach across all police so that journalists are not restricted on the whim of individual constabularies."

Five recommendations were proposed in the review, including that "Hertfordshire Constabulary should consider ensuring that all officers engaged with public order activity complete the NUJ package and identified learning is shared."

The accepted recommendation is vindication of the NUJ's position and the union's consistent work in improving understanding of the role of the media and advocating for the right of journalists to undertake their work.  

Chief constable Hall has made changes in line with recommendations, including:

  • A further review to ensure that any Public Order Public Safety officers and commanders who have not yet carried out the College of Policing National Union of Journalists awareness training are identified and do so within 30 days.

Access the full review.

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