NUJ highlights unlawful seizure of cameras by police

Reports of press photographers having their cameras seized and images deleted by police have frequented the news in the past few weeks, with the most recent case picked up by the National Union of Journalists.

On Saturday 31 July, NUJ member Carmen Valino was forced to hand over her camera to police after photographing a crime scene from behind the police cordon. She was allegedly accused of disrupting a police investigation.

According to a report by the NUJ, she was then made to delete the images before being told she could return at a later time.

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.

Similarly, earlier on in the month the BBC reported on Wokingham photographer Paul King who was taking pictures of a car crash when a traffic officer took his camera away. The officer then deleted King’s pictures before returning the camera to him.

Speaking to the BBC, he said the actions of the officer had cost him £400 in loss of earnings.

The officer came after me in a police car, grabbed hold of me and told me he was going to arrest me. He took my equipment but when it was brought back I had a look at the images and they were not there. I have made a formal complaint to the police and I am seeking legal advice from the NUJ. My role is to photograph news so the general public can see what’s going on.

Bob Satchwell from the Society of Editors will reportedly be raising concerns about the issue of forced deletion with the ACOP this week.

According to an experienced professional photographer we spoke to, software including Lexar Image Rescue or Sandisk RescuePro can be used to retrieve images that have been deleted. But they added that it is vital photographers do not load anymore photographs onto the card once the deletions have been made.

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