Press photographer mulls legal action

December 15, 2008

British press photographer Jess Hurd is considering legal action against police after she was stopped while taking photographs outside a hotel in east London.

Jess, a freelance, had been shooting video of guests leaving a wedding reception when she was stopped outside the Ramada Hotel in Docklands at 5.10pm on 10 December.

Prior to that she had been recording still images using her Canon EOS 1D Mark II digital SLR.

We understand that Jess was detained for 45minutes before being allowed to continue.

By that time guests had left the wedding reception and she had lost any further photo opportunities.

We understand three officers were involved in the incident and that Jess was stopped under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

They suspected that she could have been involved in some type of hostile reconnaissance in an area which is close to Canary Wharf.

Police allegedly seized her camera to view the images she had taken, despite her protests that she was an accredited journalist.

Jess confirmed basic details of the incident to Amateur Photographer (AP) but declined to comment further while she takes the matter up with lawyers.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police told AP that officers have a duty to take appropriate action in such sensitive areas.

At the time of writing the spokesman did not have a record of the specific incident in question.

However, speaking in general terms, he said: ?Sometimes we get it wrong,? adding that the photographer is entitled to file a complaint against the police if she wants.

Jess intends to pursue the matter through her union, the National Union of Journalists, which is expected to release a statement later today.

In a further twist, we understand that police told Jess she was not allowed to use the video footage she had captured because it was the police?s copyright.

Jess had been covering the wedding for a news story about the treatment of travellers in Europe. The pictures were published in The Guardian newspaper on Saturday (pictured).

She had been standing in the Ramada Hotel car park at Royal Victoria Dock. London E16.

The news comes just weeks after police insisted that newly published anti-terrorism guidance does not threaten press photographers right to do their job.

Drawn up by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), the guidance instructs police on their Stop and Search powers under the Terrorism Act 2000.

Professional photographers expressed concern that the guidance will be used by officers to override laws that protect journalists’ and press photographers’ right not to hand over material.

Speaking last month, a spokesman for the NPIA told AP: ‘There has been no change in the law. The Practice Advice reminds officers that they can only stop and search photographers in exceptional cases where they are involved in some kind of terrorist informational gathering activity.’

The document ? which contains a section on dealing with photographers – followed public concern that the Terrorism Act 2000 was being abused.


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Government plans new guidelines

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Jess Hurd photographer stopped