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February 15, 2024

Photographer receives police payout after Just Stop Oil protest arrest

Peter Macdiarmid was handcuffed at the M25 Clacket Lane Services in August 2022 and detained for hours.

By PA Media and Press Gazette

A news photographer who was arrested during a Just Stop Oil protest at an M25 petrol station has received a payout from police.

Peter Macdiarmid, 59, said he was handcuffed at Clacket Lane Services on 24 August 2022 and detained for several hours by Surrey Police, despite holding a UK press card.

Macdiarmid had been photographing activists as they blocked access to the petrol station from about 5am by sitting in the road with banners.

Some Just Stop Oil protesters put fuel pumps out of use by breaking the display glass and covering them with spray paint.

After Macdiarmid was arrested, law firm Bhatt Murphy sent a letter of claim to Surrey Police on his behalf and in December the force offered to settle out of court.

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The force has not accepted liability and is refusing to apologise for its actions, the British Press Photographers’ Association (BPPA) said.

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Surrey Police’s lawyers allegedly denied the officers did anything wrong, saying the situation they found when they arrived was confusing and that they had acted within the law.

Macdiarmid said: “I have been a news photographer for 37 years and have covered many events where tensions were running high and police were under great pressure.

“This Just Stop Oil protest was not like that, it was very calm and protesters were voluntarily giving themselves up for arrest when a police officer decided to detain me on suspicion of conspiracy to commit criminal damage.

“I was unable to persuade the arresting officer that I was a genuine working press photographer and my press card was ignored.

“Whilst I am glad to finally bring closure to this after many months, I am disappointed in the actions of Surrey Police in handcuffing and arresting me and then dragging out the legal process during my civil claim.”

The BPPA added: “Congratulations to Peter and his solicitors for their perseverance in pursuing this case – handcuffing and arresting a press photographer is unacceptable behaviour by Surrey Police.

“We believe that the police got it wrong on this occasion and that this is far from the first time this happened and it is likely to happen again.

“In the end Peter has received damages and his costs, but would rather have not had to go through a lengthy and stressful legal process to clear his name.”

Surrey Police confirmed it had reached a settlement with the claimant which was accepted.

Spate of journalists arrested at Just Stop Oil protests in 2022

Several other journalists were arrested while covering Just Stop Oil protests in 2022.

A MyLondon reporter spent seven hours in police custody in August 2022 – two days after Macdiarmid’s incident – after being arrested covering a petrol station protest in Hammersmith despite trying to show Met Police officers his press card.

Then in November that year four journalists – LBC reporter Charlotte Lynch, documentary maker Rich Felgate and photographers Tom Bowles and Ben Cawthra – were arrested in the space of two days by Hertfordshire Police while covering protests on the M25. A review found their arrests may have constituted “unlawful interference” in their freedom of expression.

Lynch, who was detained for seven hours despite carrying credentials and an LBC-branded microphone, later celebrated after the creation of “Charlotte’s Law” – an addition to the Public Order Bill last year offering special protections for journalists covering protests.

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