View all newsletters
Sign up for our free email newsletters

Fighting for quality news media in the digital age.

  1. Publishers
  2. Photography
April 8, 2024updated 09 Apr 2024 9:57am

Case dropped against press photographer after altercation with police officer at scene of fatal car fire

Barrister for Dimitris Legakis said case raised "legitimate questions about the freedom of the press".

By Charlotte Tobitt

Update 8 April 2024: Charges against a press photographer arrested while covering a police incident in Swansea last year have been dropped one day before a jury trial was due to begin.

Swansea Crown Court heard the Crown Prosecution Service was no longer offering evidence against Dimitris Legakis on a charge of assaulting an emergency worker in relation to the incident, according to Wales Online. It was reported that the arresting officer’s original evidence about what happened did not align with a statement he later made.

Judge Geraint Walters was reported to have told the court on Monday that, having read documents in the case, it appeared to him the case was about a police office taking “offence” to a photographer taking pictures.

James Hartson, representing Legakis, said his client was a “well-known professional photographer” and his case raised “legitimate questions about the freedom of the press”.

A public order offence of using threatening or abusive words or behaviour was dropped at an earlier stage while the prosecution said on Monday it would not be in the public interest to pursue the remaining charge of obstructing or resisting a police officer.

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

Legakis told Press Gazette the case is still impacting his mental health and his camera equipment was seized and kept for more than two months meaning he “had to notify clients of mine of the ongoing legal process which caused me immense embarrassment”.

Content from our partners
New technology from EX.CO helps publishers double on-site video revenue
Five ways to fail in media job interviews
How Germany's Ippen.Media mastered content planning across 86 newsrooms

He now plans to make formal complaints to South Wales Police, the CPS and the relevant fire service which was also present at the incident.

Original story 4 October 2023: A Swansea-based press photographer has been charged with assaulting and obstructing a police officer following an incident in which he says he was stopped from doing his job.

Dimitris Legakis, a member of the British Press Photographers’ Association, told Press Gazette the incident on 22 September has impacted his mental health, leaving him struggling to sleep.

He has also had to spend about £2,500 on equipment in order to be able to continue doing his job as police have not returned equipment worth around £6,000 that was seized, including two DSLR cameras, a wide angle lens, a drone, memory cards and his mobile phone.

Legakis, who runs Athena Picture Agency who are the official photographers for Swansea City FC, said: “I’ve been having nightmares ever since. I hardly sleep. I do suffer with my mental health. That has made it ten times worse. I’m often very unmotivated, on the verge of, if you like, almost scared to go out to work. I’m trying to fight against that.”

Legakis received a tip-off from a friend at around 8.20am on Friday 22 September that a car was on fire. A 77-year-old woman subsequently died in hospital and her husband has been charged with murder.

Legakis was in custody at Swansea Central Police Station for about 15 hours, from around 9am until midnight.

His equipment was seized, seemingly without the required judicial approval under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.

As a result Legakis has been forced to buy a new camera, lens, mobile phone and memory card, spending around £2,500 so he can keep working.

A South Wales Police spokesperson told Press Gazette: “Emergency services were called to the scene of a car fire in Sketty Lane, Swansea at just after 8.20am on Friday 22nd September.

“A man and woman were taken to hospital with burns. 77-year-old Helen Clarke died on the Sunday evening in Morriston Hospital. 80-year-old David Clarke was subsequently charged with murder and has appeared at court.

“While officers were setting up a crime scene cordon a 47-year-old man was arrested.

“Dimitris Legakis, of Swansea, has been charged with assaulting an emergency worker, a public order offence and obstructing a police constable in the execution of their duty.

“He will appear at Swansea Magistrates Court on 15th November.”.

Press ‘should not be prevented’ from filming at scene of an incident

Legakis has been a photographer for two decades but said incidents involving both police and members of the public trying to stop him from doing his job have significantly worsened in the past few years.

On Christmas Day last year he was at the scene near where a car plunged into a river in Swansea, killing two people. According to his videos and a complaint he made to South Wales Police, seen by Press Gazette, multiple police officers attempted to block his camera and said things like “I’m asking you to show some decency”, “I’m asking you to show some respect to the people involved and stop recording”, “you are actually impeding the investigation”, and “are you very proud of what you do?”

He said the officers’ actions breached his right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and he is considering taking legal action against police in relation to both these incidents.

College of Policing guidelines state: “Reporting or filming from the scene of an incident is part of the media’s role and they should not be prevented from doing so from a public place. Police have no power or moral responsibility to stop the filming or photographing of incidents or police personnel. It is for the media to determine what is published or broadcast, not the police.

“Once an image has been recorded, the police have no power to seize equipment, or delete or confiscate images or footage, without a court order.”

Legakis said: “The problem I’m having is this: if a member of the public complains to the police that I’m taking pictures and the police turn up, when the police ask me to leave the member of the public obviously thinks that what I’m doing is wrong. And that spoils it for me and that spoils it for other newsgatherers that might turn up.”

Photographer Andy Aitchison eventually secured compensation and an apology from Kent Police after being arrested at his home and held for seven hours on suspicion of criminal damage for taking photos of a protest outside a Covid-hit asylum centre in January 2021.

Last summer My London reporter Callum Cuddeford was arrested and also spent about seven hours in police custody after covering Just Stop Oil action and being mistaken for one of the protesters.

And months later three journalists – two photographers and one LBC reporter – were arrested and detained for covering Just Stop Oil protests on the M25. Hertfordshire Police’s chief constable Charlie Hall “personally apologised” following an uproar.

Topics in this article : ,

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

Websites in our network