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.
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.
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