A freelance press photographer was threatened with arrest and forced to delete images by police officers at the scene of a shooting in Hackney, East London.
The incident happened as Carmen Valino photographed a crime scene while on assignment for the Hackney Gazette on Saturday.
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After identifying herself as a journalist, showing her UK Press card to officers, and setting to work outside the police cordon, Valino was approached by a sergeant who told her she was disrupting the investigation and had to hand over her camera.
Valino protested that she was in a public place and he did not have the right to take her camera. Press Gazette understands that he then took her arm and brought out his handcuffs prompting Valino to hand over her camera.
The sergeant took her camera for five minutes before returning it and told Valino to delete the images she had taken. He then told her she could return later to photograph the scene.
The incident comes just days after Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson told a meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority at London’s City Hall he could not guarantee all officers would interpret correctly guidelines given to them about treatment of press photographers.
The Metropolitan Police confirmed to Press Gazette that Hackney Police was aware of the incident and was currently looking into the circumstances.
A spokesman said: “It is clearly not the intention of the MPS to prevent people from taking photographs. Our officers do receive guidance around the issue of photography through briefings and internal communication and we continue to drive this work forward. It is therefore disappointing when this guidance is not followed correctly.
“Any allegations or complaints about police treatment of photographers is taken very seriously and will be dealt with appropriately. Anyone who is unhappy with the actions of individual police officers can make a formal complaint, which will be thoroughly investigated.”
Last month, Home Secretary Theresa May effectively outlawed the use of controversial counter-terrorism stop and search powers to detain press photographers or prevent their work
May said police should not be allowed to use the powers to stop and search individuals unless they “reasonably suspect” them of being a terrorist.
Stop-and-search has regularly been used against photographers and journalists as they report events.
The policy change from May followed a European Court of Human Rights judgment last month which ruled the power to search people without suspicion under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 was illegal.
Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary, said “The abuse of the law must stop. There is a gulf between photographers’ legal rights and the current practices of individual police officers.
“The police should uphold the law, not abuse it – photographers acting in the public interest deserve better.”