Police get tough over press security probes

NoW exposes lax security at Gatwick Airport

The stance of the police and the British Airport Authority has hardened towards reporters who breach airport security to prove it is lax and open to terrorist attack.

The News of the World’s Rob Kellaway was arrested last week and released five hours later on police bail until 8 April, after he was able to smuggle a replica machine gun and a pistol on to a plane at Gatwick airport earlier this month.

Kellaway, 37, now waits to see if he will be charged along with the driver of a catering lorry who helped him get airside.

He told Press Gazette this week that it was clear from the moment he went to Crawley police station to be interviewed by detectives that this would be a very different scenario from inquiries he had assisted with in the past.

Kellaway went voluntarily to the police station with a lawyer. “The first thing they did was arrest me. I was a bit surprised I was treated in such a formal way. They made it very clear I was a prisoner rather than assisting them with their inquiries and that if the various things they were requesting were not forthcoming, they could make life awkward for us,” he said.

“I have assisted in a number of inquiries as the result of stories I have done. I have been interviewed by the police on many occasions as a witness. The Crawley police were at pains to make clear that this was very different. We were being treated as suspects rather than helpful journalists. We tried to give every assistance we could.

“At first the atmosphere was decidedly frosty but as they figured out we were helping them as much as we were able, the ice broke a little bit.”

Kellaway arranged for the NoW’s guns, videotape and still pictures to be made available to the investigators.

His treatment came as “a bit of a shock”, he said, because so many journalists had done similar security investigations at airports – the first in 1988. The police were concerned, he said, that other journalists would try topping his story of getting a machine gun aboard an aircraft and were anxious about the consequences for security personnel.

Kellaway’s response was that it was down to BAA to sort out the security which could prevent this – and attack by terrorists. Kellaway has been with the NoW for almost four years and was with The People and The Sun before that.

The NoW said the investigation was “massively in the public interest” and was astonished that the police and airport authorities were focusing on the reporter rather than the slack security.

When the NoW last did a similar investigation in 2001, the Department of Transport said it was grateful a loophole had been exposed and began an immediate investigation. “We had been led to believe that not only was this a legitimate exercise but one that the Government welcomed,” said Kellaway.

By Jean Morgan

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