Police apologise for camera grab

A Sunderland Echo photographer has received a formal apology from police after his camera was seized near the scene of a fatal road crash, writes Jean Morgan.

John McCormick took a photograph from a public footbridge overlooking the A182, in Washington, near Sunderland, where a man was killed driving a pony and trap.

McCormick’s camera was forcibly pulled from his neck and the photographer, who says he was also verbally abused and intimidated, was shocked by the incident.

The Echo’s assistant news editor, Patrick Lavelle, was told of the incident and accompanied McCormick to Washington Police Station where he asked how police could justify seizing the camera.

Lavelle said: “A police inspector told me the photograph was distasteful and said the camera would only be handed back if we erased the image from the digital camera’s memory.

“I told the officer any decision on taste was an editorial judgement, and not for police to decide.

“In the event, I decided the image was distasteful and not suitable for publication in the Echo, and we agreed to erase it.”

A formal complaint was made to Northumbria Police and Chief Inspector Neil Minto, of the force’s motor patrols, has now given the Echo, and McCormick, a full written apology.

In his letter to Echo editor Rob Lawson, Chief Inspector Minto says: “I write to apologise formally.

“I agree with you that the incident was entirely inappropriate and I have reviewed instructions to my staff to make sure that this kind of incident should never happen again.”

Chief Inspector Minto also sent a letter to McCormick apologising for what he agreed must have been an “unnerving incident”.

Jean Morgan

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