Photographer Edward Hirst, who has been working for the tabloids for 10 years, claims his digital camera was forcibly taken from him by officers from the Metropolitan Police to stop him taking pictures at Madonna’s concert at Earls Court.
The police were alerted by Madonna’s security men, who claimed Hirst was breaching her copyright by taking the pictures.
Hirst at first refused to give up his camera and told the police that breach of copyright was a civil not a criminal matter. While the £2,500 camera was later returned to him, Hirst, a partner in London picture agency Equinox Research, is still waiting for the return of his digital film card, worth around £500. He is also waiting to see whether the police are to charge him with any offence under the Copyright, Design and Patents Act.
He has been told a report is being sent to the Crown Prosecution Service and the police will hold onto the film card until the CPS makes a decision on his case.
A complaint against Hirst has been laid by Madonna’s company Boy Toy Incorporated.
Hirst said he was concerned because, under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, all material obtained in the course of journalism is privileged and the police must obtain a court order to seize it.
A police spokeswoman said that Hirst had bought an ordinary ticket and was at the concert as a member of the audience and not as an affiliated member of the press. "Taking photographs from the audience is apparently forbidden and was clearly stated," she said. "It was an arrestable offence but the photographer was not arrested."
By Jean Morgan