News organisations forced to hand over hunt demo pics

By Roger Pearson
 
Six major news
organisations have lost their High Court challenge against handing over
video and photographs from last September’s pro-hunting demonstration
in Parliament Square.
 
It is a move which journalists fear could put
them at risk in future because they could be seen as evidence-gathering
agents for the authorities.
 
Guardian Newspapers, ITV, ITN, the BBC,
Associated Newspapers and Reuters had challenged the decision of Judge
Inman, at Middlesex Guidhall Crown Court in March, that they must hand
over all film, photographs and negatives of the demonstration on 15
September last year to aid an investigation by the Independent Police
Complaints Commission (IPPC).
 
The policing of the demonstration attracted
widespread public criticism, well reported by the media and was
followed by 403 complaints against the police, including allegations of
unlawful violence.
 
Of the complainants, 46 were said to have been injured.
The IPPC launched an investigation, and a number of media outlets co-operated and voluntarily handed over their material.
However, the claimants in this case did not co-operate.
 
This, Lord Justice Kennedy said today, was
“largely it seems because they feared that, if they did so, it may put
their camera crews and their staff at risk in the future”. However,
Judge Inman made an order that they must disclose the material, under
section 9 and schedule 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984,
following an application by John Cummins of the IPCC.
 
Challenging that decision today the six
media outlets argued that Mr Cummins, as a retired police constable,
had no power to make the application, and that accordingly the judge
had no jurisdiction to grant it. Alternatively, they claimed that the
order, covering all photographs and film relating to all the events of
the whole day, was too broad.
 
However, lawyers for the IPPC argued that it was
plainly in the public interest for this material to be provided to
assist the investigation into widespread public concern about the
conduct of police officers. They argued that there was no good reason
for these media outlets not to co-operate.
 
Backing Judge Inman’s decision, and rejecting the
challenge, Lord Justice Kennedy, sitting with Mr Justice Walker, said:
“In my judgment, the judge was right to come to the conclusion that he
did. Any other conclusion would have been surprising.”
 
Rejecting claims that the order was too broad, he added: “I am satisfied that it is not even arguable that he was wrong.”
 
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