A photographer and a videographer have each won £3,500 in damages from the Metropolitan Police after the pair were prevented from recording a protest outside the Greek Embassy in 2008.
The Met admitted that it breached Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights – and failed to respect press freedom – when an officer pulled a camera away from photographer Marc Vallée and covered the lens on a camera being used by videographer Jason Parkinson.
The pair were attempting to record a political protest outside the Greek Embassy in December 2008.
Marc Vallée told Amateur Photographer: ‘This is the second time I’ve been forced to take legal action against the Metropolitan Police since 2006 and I would like it to be the last.
‘The question to consider is: “Is the overall harassment of photographers by the police a deliberate policy or a series of unrelated mistakes?”.
In 2008, Vallée won £4,000 in an out-of-court settlement after clashing with police while photographing a political protest outside Parliament.
He said this morning: ‘You have to ask yourself whether it is in the DNA of the Metropolitan Police to restrict and harass photographers and, if so, what are we going to do about it?’
The news is being hailed as a victory for press freedom and a massive boost for the rights of photographers.
National Union of Journalists general secretary Jeremy Dear said: ‘Professional journalists and photographers have detailed numerous attempts by police officers to stifle the reporting of protests.
‘Today we have achieved a significant victory – it is right that the police admit liability, apologise and compensate those whose basic human rights were breached in such a blatant and aggressive manner.’
Chez Cotton, head of the Police Misconduct department at law firm Bindmans LLP, said the pair had complied with police requests to leave the area, but were ‘forcibly removed’ and told to report from a distance.
Cotton added: ‘It is of grave concern that an armed, diplomatic officer of the Metropolitan Police Force felt it was appropriate to call these journalists ‘scum’ and stop them from working and was happy to do so in the full knowledge that he was being filmed.
‘My clients were physically prevented from reporting on protest and political unrest of international importance.
‘Just before he was frogmarched by officers away from events, Mr Parkinson filmed an officer punching a protester in the side of the head, although the protester appears to be already under the control of several officers.
‘[That] the police appeared not to want these journalists to film what appeared to be extremely brutal arrests using force is a cause for further alarm.’
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police told Amateur Photographer: ‘The MPS [Metropolitan Police Service] has apologised and accepted liability for a breach of freedom of expression (Article 10 of the European Court of Human Rights) when an officer attempted to prevent two journalists from taking photographs outside the Greek Embassy on 8 December 2008.
‘The MPS recognises the vital importance of journalists being able to report freely on all occasions, including at public order events.’
? Meanwhile, two photographers were arrested while covering a protest outside the G20 summit in Canada over the weekend.
Colin O?Connor and Brett Grundlock were arrested in Toronto on Saturday evening, according to the National Post, the Canadian newspaper they work for.
The men were reportedly charged with ?obstructing a peace officer and unlawful assembly after refusing police officers? requests to leave the area?.
Both were released on bail.