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Met Police PR chief says officers were 'extremely upset' by Times front page image

Met Police communications chief Martin Fewell has said officers were “extremely upset” by Friday’s Times front page which showed a photograph of PC Keith Palmer as he lay dying.

The image was used two days after the attack on Westminster in which PC Palmer sustained fatal injuries.

The front-page showed both the attacker and PC Palmer (not visible in the cropped version above) lying on the ground from a distance.

It was taken by Times deputy political editor Sam Coates who was among a number of Lobby journalists nearby at the time of the Westminster attack.

Former Channel 4 news deputy editor turned Met Police director of communications Fewell spoke to Andrea Catherwood on today’s Radio 4 Media Shaw.

He said: “We both have lost colleagues and I don’t think  our news organisation would have put images of dying colleagues on the television and I don’t think those around the table from newspapers would expect their news organisations to put pictures of dying colleagues in their newspapers.

“There was a real sentiment within the Met Police that was frankly extremely upset about that…

“They didn’t want to see the family and the colleagues of Keith Palmer upset by those [images]…It was important news organisation didn’t use images in social media where they can be shared around and used as trophies to glamorise the actions of an attacker.”

Times deputy editor Emma Tucker, also appearing on the programme, said: “We never set out to offend or upset people.

“By the Friday it was clear that one of the key stories that was emerging was the story of a security lapse, the fact that an unarmed police officer had been murdered in the precinct of the Houses of Parliament and the gates remained open after the attacker had got in.”

She emphasised that the picture was used because it conveyed that information and noted that it was taken from a distance and the people involved were not identifiable.

She said: “If the officer hadn’t died I don’t think people would have minded.”

Asked whether she regretted publishing it, she said: “Absolutely not… This was a picture that was an important illustration of a story about a security lapse, I totally stand by the fact that we used it.”

Channel 4 News declined an invitation to appear on the programme to discuss its mistake on Wednesday night when it named the wrong man – Abu Izzadeen – as the Westminster attacker.

Fewell said that publishing the correct identity of the attacker on Wednesday night might have compromised the arrests that were made.

Newsnight reporter John Sweeney said: “There but for the grace of God go I. We looked at Abu Izzadeen… Another guy with another name also came to fore.

“My view was we were not going to name anyone, we are going to play this as safe as possible…You should wait until you check it. We knew their story was wrong and it was surprising it took them that long to correct it.”

Comments

5 thoughts on “Met Police PR chief says officers were 'extremely upset' by Times front page image”

  1. I suspect what they actually thought was real worry about the family of the police officer seeing that image. If it were my relative photographed like that, shown with no dignity in death, I would be fuming as well as upset. To his wife and children, once seen, that photograph can never be ‘unseen’. The Times’s security lapse point was a good one; but they could have cropped their picture and made the same point.

  2. Yes, Police are thick skinned enough to deal with exposure to trauma. They can distance themselves to view a situation from an objective point of view and remain impartial. That’s how a good investigation is conducted. However it’s difficult to remain impartial when it’s one of your own lying there dying. Police Officers are only human, with human emotions.
    Impartiality, investigation and human emotion is something sorely lacking within the British Journalism today.

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