Foot and mouth journalists arrested

Two journalists covering the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Surrey have been arrested after breaching a cordon inside a protected zone close to Wanborough.

The two freelance male journalists – Philip Hollis from Kingston and James Purkiss from Swindon – were today charged under Section 27 of the Animal Health Act and are facing prosecution by Surrey Trading Standards.

They were arrested, disinfected and their equipment was seized on Saturday 4 August, after breaching a cordon inside the protected foot and mouth zone close to Wanborough.

Peter Denard from Surrey Trading Standards urged journalists to act responsibly.

He said: ‘This is a virulent disease spread on contact and proximity. The idea that anyone not wearing protective clothing and taking no bio-security measures is trampling through a potentially contaminated area of the countryside is beyond belief.

‘The media performs an absolutely vital role in ensuring that information is made available to the public and that everybody is kept informed of events as they unfold, and responsible reporting is absolutely key.

‘The local needs of the community must also be respected and we have been exceedingly disappointed that various members of this rural community have been repeatedly contacted by different media outlets and at inappropriate times of the night.

‘We want the media focus to remain here and we are delighted by the professionalism shown by the majority of the journalists – we would hope that the minority would follow suit.”

Surrey Police Assistant Chief Constable Mark Rowley added: ‘These restrictions are in place to protect contaminated sites and prevent the possible spread of the disease. We all want to avoid the terrible situation in 2001 and officers will not hesitate to arrest anyone who enters these sites.

‘So far, two photographers have been arrested for breaching cordons, despite the obvious need to protect the area and clear signs prohibiting entry. No members of the public have tried to get inside contaminated areas and unfortunately the only attempted breaches have been by some of the media.

‘I’m sure all the responsible journalists working at the scene and the public would be shocked to think that a very small minority of media representatives are risking the further spread of the disease for the sake of a photo or video from inside a contaminated site.”

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