Tuesday 7 September 2010

‘It is unlawful to photograph a crime scene’

The Met and photography – no change.

Just for the record, when I approached the scene of the BMW crash on Hoe Street on Saturday, a police officer told me there was no way past. I explained I was not seeking to pass the cordon, I was simply approaching it in order to take some photographs. He said this was unlawful. I politely replied that my understanding was that it was perfectly lawful to take photographs in a public place. He replied that this was not true when a crime scene was involved and that it is an offence to photograph a crime scene.

This impasse was resolved when the officer grinned and then said, ‘Oh, go on then.’ Which was nice.

When I went to one of the other cordons to take some more pics, the officer there raised no objections at all.

Ironically, there were members of the public wandering around inside the cordon. They were staff from the Skoda dealership on Hoe Street who’d come outside to take a closer look at the wreckage. So in theory they might have been contaminating the crime scene before the forensic investigators had arrived.

A few weeks ago a professional journalist in Hackney had this experience while standing outside a police cordon taking photographs:

The incident happened as Valino photographed the crime scene from outside a police cordon whilst on assignment from the Hackney Gazette. She had identified herself as a journalist and showed her UK Press Card to police.

A police Sergeant approached Valino telling her that she was disrupting a police investigation and to hand over her camera. After protesting to the Sergeant that she was in a public place, outside the cordon he had no right to take her camera, he grabbed her wrist and pulled out his handcuffs. Before he could put the cuffs on she handed him her camera. He then left for five minutes before coming back, bringing Valino inside the cordon and asking her to show him the images and deleting them. Valino was told that she could come back in a few hours to photograph the scene.

This incident highlights how police officers are still woefully ignorant of the law regarding photography and the agreed ACPO Media Guidelines.