By Dominic Ponsford
A reporter was ejected from a company’s extraordinary general meeting and cornered by security men who demanded that he hand over a camera.
Luke David, from the Wood & Vale Express, sister title to the Hampstead and Highgate Express, in North London, gave them the slip by going into a toilet cubicle to remove the film from his camera. The story and pictures were due to feature in this Friday’s edition of the newspaper.
David was covering a shareholder meeting of the internet hosting business Redbus Interhouse. He gained entry by buying shares in the company.
The meeting was held to settle a boardroom dispute involving former chief executive John Porter, son of disgraced Conservative Westminster Council leader Dame Shirley Porter.
Dame Shirley was ordered to pay £37m by the House of Lords in December 2001 for her part in the Eighties homes-for-votes scandal. She has since claimed poverty, despite some estimates putting her worth at £300m.
David was ejected from the meeting after he photographed a protest by a shareholder who believed some of Dame Shirley’s missing millions had been transferred to her son.
He said: “Four or five men in suits swooped and surrounded me. A woman who was a solicitor for the company said ‘I’m afraid you have to give me that camera – you don’t have permission to take photographs’.
“I said ‘no, it’s private property and I’m a shareholder’. They said I had to leave the meeting and I was frogmarched out by these guys. Outside the meeting they tried to take me off into this private room. I said ‘no way – if you want to talk to me, you can do it out here in the lobby’.
“They tried really hard to seize my camera. While I was in the lobby, all the exits were being blocked by big guys in suits.” After about 15 minutes of argument, David said the solicitor went off to confer with a colleague. He then persuaded a security guard to let him go to the toilet.
“He escorted me in there and was in the next cubicle,” said David. “I took the film out of the camera while I was trying to pretend I was going to the loo.”
David was later allowed to leave the building with his camera and film. The shareholder meeting was held at the London offices of Redbus Interhouse solicitors Ashurst Morris Crisp.
An Ashurst spokesman said: “Mr David was not on the register of members of the company at the time of the meeting and, therefore, was not entitled to attend the meeting.
“However, having assured the company that he had purchased shares in Redbus prior to the meeting, he was, in good faith, invited into the meeting. Mr David took photographs of people at the meeting without permission.
“We made it clear that his conduct was inappropriate and he then left of his own volition.”
Leader, page 14