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March 2, 2012

Journalists reminded of ACPO guidelines: ‘Police have no power to stop journalists taking pictures’

By Cleland Thom

Journalists and photographers across the UK are being given wallet-sized guides outlining their legal rights to take photographs in public places.

The Chartered Institute of Journalists is circulating the guidelines to all its members after photographer Stuart Littleford was obstructed by Greater Manchester Police offices three times in two months.

The guidelines were originally issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers in 2010. But the CIOJ believes it is time to re-distribute them.

General secretary Dominic Cooper said: “This is an essential and timely reminder of photographer’s rights.  Sadly, however, elements of the GMP do not seem to want to recognise the law in this regard.

‘It is to be hoped that the GMP hierarchy can educate their officers on the street as to the correct procedure when dealing with journalists during the course of their duties.”

The guidelines, originally issued by Andy Trotter, chairman of ACPO’s media advisory group, state: “Members of the media have a duty to take photographs and film incidents and we have no legal power or moral responsibility to prevent or restrict what they record.

“It is a matter for their editors to control what is published or broadcast, not the police.

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“Once images are recorded, we have no power to delete or confiscate them without a court order, even if we think they contain damaging or useful evidence.”

It also states: “Members of the media do not need a permit to photograph or film in public places.”

Stuart Littleford, who has three complaints being considered by GMP’s Professional Practices Board, has welcomed the CIOJ’s move. But he is not convinced the message will get through.

He said: “I hope it has the desired affect. I shall wait and see. But memos from the chief constable to his officers have not worked – there is obviously an issue getting the message to the bobbies on the street.”

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