Media fights order to hand in foxhunting demo footage

By Dominic Ponsford and Caitlin Pike

News organisations are resisting court demands to hand over footage
of last year’s pro-foxhunting demonstration in Parliament Square.

In an unusual twist, the footage has been requested by investigators
looking into allegations of police brutality. Such requests are
normally made by the police themselves.

The Guardian, BBC, ITN,
Reuters, ITV and Associated Newspapers are all appealing against a
ruling that they hand over pictures and footage from the September 2004
protest.

The order to hand over material has been made under the
1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act by the Independent Police
Complaints Commission, which is investigating allegations of police
brutality against protesters.

BBC solicitor David Attfield said:
“Our main objection is that it is quite dangerous for cameramen,
journalists and reporters to be seen as agents of the state, that all
information in the camera can subsequently be used as evidence in legal
proceedings – it could be perceived that cameramen act as
evidence-gathering agents. There isn’t one case that would turn the
tide completely, but the danger arises if we are routinely making
resources available.”

He added: “In March the High Court served an order demanding that we hand over our material within 14 days.

We
have made a legal challenge against the order on a technical point of
law – that the IPCC doesn’t have the power to ask the court to do this.

“This
is usually used to assist police with investigation of a crime, but
this isn’t a crime – this is an investigation into a body of complaints
against the police. We have a strong legal argument to bring the
challenge. Our first written application for leave to challenge the
order has been rejected, but we are now applying in person to the
court.”

According to an IPCC spokesman, other broadcasters and
newspapers, which he declined to name, have already handed over their
material.

The Times, which is not involved in the joint action,
allowed IPCC investigators to view its images from the demonstration
but resisted a request to hand over its footage. It has yet to be
served with a formal disclosure order.

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