A convicted drug-driver allegedly assaulted a press photographer as he arrived at an inquest yesterday.
INS photographer Vagner Vidal told police the man grabbed his camera lens, spat at him and gave him the middle finger outside Reading Coroners’ Court, which is in the Town Hall.
Thames Valley Police is investigating the incident.
The alleged assailant, aged 18, was a witness at an inquest into the deaths of two men he hit and killed after smoking cannabis in August last year. He was convicted of drug-driving earlier this year and given a community service order.
Vidal, who has worked for INS for almost nine years, told Press Gazette the man became aggressive towards him as he was capturing his arrival to give evidence.
“I started to photograph him as he got to the inquest centre in Reading and as he got closer to the entrance and the door he put his arm towards the lens,” Vidal said.
“I thought he would just cover it but he grabbed the lens and he tried to pull it out of my hand.
“I didn’t let go. I said ‘look, don’t do that, this is assault, you shouldn’t be doing that’ and we started having an argument.
“He said ‘do you know why I’m here? Have some respect,” and gave Vidal the finger, which the photographer captured on camera.
Vidal continued: “He was quite aggressive. He was covering his face as I was trying to get a picture of him.
“He spat at me, towards me on the floor, and then walked in inside the court. It was all very brief.”
A BBC camera crew at the scene captured the incident and shared the footage with Vidal, he added.
“I have to admit I felt pretty angry… When you go to court this kind of stuff can happen but you never expect them to turn a bit violent or try to grab the camera from you.”
Vidal nonetheless managed to get some usable images of the man who attacked him following the inquest, telling Press Gazette the incident only made him more determined to do so.
Asked if anything similar had ever happened to him before, Vidal said: “Many many years ago it did happen but it wasn’t in court, it was a doorknock. It was my first job for INS.
“I’ve never really had a problem since. You get intimidating characters but never actually physically trying to grab my camera.
“I really don’t want this to create a precedent so people think they can do this to working photographers. It’s hard enough as it is.”
A spokesperson for Thames Valley Police confirmed the force had received a report of an assault which took place between 9.30am and 10am yesterday outside Reading Town Hall.
“A man in his thirties was assaulted by another man,” a statement said.
“The victim did not sustain any injuries. An investigation has been launched into the circumstances.
“Anyone with information should call 101 quoting reference 543 8/7/19.”
Picture: Google Street View