Not guilty verdict for freelance May Day photographer

Freelance photographer Matt Devine has been found not guilty of affray, ending an 11-month ordeal since he was arrested while covering London’s May Day protests for the Daily Express.

Devine, who had always protested his innocence, used pictures taken by colleagues who were also covering the demo to present his case.

Last week a jury at Middlesex Guildhall took just 40 minutes to find him not guilty after a two-day trial.

Devine said: “It was a relief to be found not guilty. Unfortunately, 11 months of the strain of dealing with this while being a freelance doesn’t just go overnight. I am pleased but it’s rather a wry pleased.

“The whole thing was ridiculous and should never have come to trial.

It was an utter waste of taxpayers’ money.”

Devine said he was grateful to other photographers such as Ian Nicholson for making pictures available to him for his defence. Nicholson’s picture was of Devine showing police his press card.

Devine is bitter at the way he believes freelances are left on their own to fight legal cases when they hit trouble. At the time he was not a union member and had to rely on legal aid.

“I don’t feel freelances have any protection,” he said. “When you are working for a paper you are presented as one of their photographers, but when something goes wrong you are ‘just a freelance’ and they are no help at all.

“As the industry is now full of freelances, I think it is time for newspapers to take some responsibility for the fellow human beings they employ and to recognise we do have rights.”

Devine and his solicitors Bindman are considering whether to make formal complaints about the police over the way he was treated.

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