Newcastle photographer cleared of obstruction sues police

A press photographer is to sue Northumbria Police Force for false arrest after being cleared of obstructing an officer.

Freelance Marc McMahon claims he lost £10,000 worth of camera equipment when police tried to stop him taking pictures and cuffed him.

On Tuesday, Newcastle Magistrates found McMahon not guilty of obstructing a police officer and said he had acted ‘professionally”.

McMahon, along with his 16-year-old daughter Carly, was called to an incident on the city’s Tyne Bridge where a man was threatening to jump on 17 October last year. Despite showing his press card, Northumbria PCs James Mennie and Thomas Fowler told McMahon he could not take photographs.

Carly says her mobile phone was knocked out of her hand by PC Mennie when she tried to take a snap of her dad being arrested.

McMahon was handcuffed and taken to a police cell – being forced to leave behind his equipment which was later stolen from the scene.

McMahon said: ‘I’m feeling very relieved about the verdict. The last year has been immensely stressful for my family and we’re glad the magistrates came to the right decision. My daughter and I were carrying out our jobs within the law and the last thing you expect is to be arrested and put in a police cell.

‘And the loss of the equipment on top of that was devastating as it’s our livelihood.”

Now McMahon, 37, is set to launch a civil case against the force to reclaim the cost of his equipment and related loss of earnings.

He was arrested for breaching the peace but the charge was later changed to obstruction.

McMahon, of Consett, County Durham, said: ‘I told the officer we were well within our rights to take photos as there was no police cordon, it was a public place and there were other people standing about taking photographs.”

Northampton Police Chief Constable David Warcup said today: “We note the decision of the court and an investigation into Mr McMahon’s complaint is under way.”

A force spokesman told the Newcastle Sunday Sun after the 2006 incident: ‘Police officers are aware of the need to work with the media and let reporters and photographers carry out their jobs when covering events which are happening in public places. However the actions of the media must not compromise police operations, put anyone in danger or obstruct the police.

‘In this case, officers were concerned that media attention could have exacerbated what was already a tense situation with a man threatening to jump from the Tyne Bridge. This led to an arrest for breach of the peace.”

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