26 November 2014

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Blogger arrested for filming council meeting

A local news blogger was taken out of a council chamber and arrested by four police officers – because she was using her mobile phone to film a public meeting.

Jacqui Thompson, 49, was detained at a police station after being forcibly removed from the public gallery at Carmarthenshire County Council last week after chairman Ivor Jackson suspended the meeting to call police.

The county council says that its rules prohibit filming of its meetings.

Mrs Thompson, a community councillor in  Carmarthenshire who runs a blog called ‘Carmarthenshire Planning Problems and more’, said she was filming the meeting on her phone because she was unhappy with the way in which it was dealing with a petition presented by elderly campaigners to save their day centre.

After the meeting was suspended and police arrived, she was handcuffed and escorted from the building.

“I was then taken 30 miles to Llanelli police station where I remained handcuffed for another hour before being ‘processed’, and put in a cell for another two hours,” Mrs Thompson said.

Three police officers then told her that if she failed to sign an “undertaking” not to film or record any more meetings she would be kept in the police station overnight.

“I am now asking a solicitor about the legality of this and regardless of the outcome I will not abide by something I was forced to sign. I will be back,” she said, adding: “I can’t quite believe what happened to me for trying to film a public meeting.”

A county council spokeswoman said: “The law requires the council to allow public access to its meetings, but it does not require council to allow the public to film them.

“There is no Welsh Government Assembly guidance requiring this and in fact they also do not allow individual members of the public to record their proceedings. Neither does Parliament.

“As owner of the building the council is entitled to regulate what happens on their premises.

The Council’s standing orders provide that if a meeting is being disrupted by a person in the public gallery, the Chair should ask for that person to be removed.

“If he or she refuses to leave when requested, the Chair can adjourn the meeting to enable this to happen and for order to be restored,” the spokeswoman added.

Dyfed Powys Police reported Mrs Thompson’s arrest in a statement on its website, saying that officers arrived at County Hall in Carmarthen and spoke to a 49-year-old woman, adding that “she refused to co-operate and she was then arrested to prevent a further breach of the peace”.

The statement added: “She was later released with no further action.”



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