Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Police Guidance on Filming - More Thoughts on #Daftarrest

I was reminded again yesterday of this guidance issued to all police forces;

There are no powers prohibiting the taking of photographs, film or digital images in a public place. Therefore members of the public and press should not be prevented from doing so.
We must acknowledge that citizen journalism is a feature of modern life and police officers are now photographed and filmed more than ever.
Unnecessarily restricting photography, whether for the casual tourist or the professional is unacceptable and undermines public confidence in the police service.
Once an image has been recorded, the police have no power to delete or confiscate it without a court order.

(All forces guidance letter, 26th August 2010, Andrew Trotter, Chief Constable, Chair of ACPO Communication Advisory Group).

This is very clear, and got me thinking again. I firmly believe that the Public Gallery of the County Council is a public place, in fact it such a public place that there are specific laws which ensure you have free access to it, although we know of course that Carmarthenshire Council have re-written these laws (or, to put it another way, broken them) to deny free access.
Anyway, the Guidance had clearly passed over the heads of Dyfed Powys Police on the 8th June. As soon as the police officers entered the Gallery, they seized my phone whilst the image of the Council Chamber was still on it. One of my concerns (and I must say there were quite a few at that time) was that the police would delete the video I had taken. It soon became apparent that they wouldn't because the arresting officers clearly classed it as 'evidence' of a 'crime'. The officers' statement, which was read out at the station, included words to the effect that 'when we arrived at the public gallery an image of the council chamber was clearly visible on Mrs Thompson's phone'.
As I have said before, my phone, in an 'evidence' bag, was returned to me that evening with the film footage intact and undeleted.
As filming is clearly not a crime, and in the absence of any breach of the peace, I am still wondering why they arrested me.
Hopefully it'll all come out in the wash.


Mr Mustard said...

You could probably get an expert to udnelete the deleted items like you can on a computer?

Cneifiwr said...

An extremely good point. What could be more public than a Public Gallery in a publically owned building for the use of the public to observe public meetings? :-)

caebrwyn said...

@Mr Mustard As I said, luckily nothing was deleted from my phone. Cardiff Council may want to give their Constitution a rethink though as, if the police themselves haven't got powers to delete images, film etc, I am quite sure the Mayor hasn't either and cannot order the; "destruction of such recordings as may have been made"

A watcher said...

Unfortunately, trespass is committed if you refuse to leave property at the request of the lawful occupier (not the owner). Whilst this doesn't help the Police, trespass being a civil offence, the occupier of a publicly owned building could still forcibly eject you or take legal action for trespass, should you refuse to leave at their request. If a breach of the peace is likely to occur during the removal, either party could ask the Police to stand by 'just in case'. However, until a criminal act occurs the Police should remain on the sidelines observing only. That's why the Police attend evictions/bailiff actions, they can watch but they can't assist or get involved until one of the parties starts to commit a criminal act. Usually when on party throws a punch at the other :) If I am wrong I am sure a legal eagle will put me right.