29 August 2014

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Journalists ‘searched’ by police on way to cover march

A group of journalists were searched by police as they travelled to cover a far-right march, the National Union of Journalists has claimed.

The union said that nine photojournalists were travelling to Brighton in a mini-bus to cover a far-right march on Sunday when police signalled that they should follow them off the road at Hickstead.

The freelance journalists immediately told the police officers that they were press and not part of the protest, also showing them their press cards.

But seven out of nine of the journalists were subjected to a search for offensive weapons before being allowed to continue on their way after around 20-30 minutes.

NUJ freelance organiser John Toner said: “This was an unlawful use of the legislation to detain and search journalists.

“Sussex Police now seem to be aware of their blunder and we hope the officers concerned are given training in dealing with media workers.

“We will be taking legal advice on whether there is a potential claim against Sussex Police.”

The laws cited by the police were Section 60 of the Terrorism Act and Section 60AA of the Public Order Act.

Sussex Police later tweeted: “We apologise, this was a mistake by an individual officer and quickly acted upon.”

A spokesman for Sussex Police said: “Police were granted a Section 60 power under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 for the duration of Operation Wheeler, the March for England event and counter protest held in Brighton on Sunday. This power extended up the A23 corridor.

“This power entitles officers to stop and search anyone where they believe there are going to be incidents of serious disorder or that weapons are being carried.

“The overriding aim of Section 60 is to ensure safety and maintain the peace. Sussex Police were aware that people were travelling to Brighton in groups by minibus from all over the country for the March for England and the Section 60 power was used to search them for this purpose.

“This group of journalists were treated in exactly the same way as other members of the public who were searched.

“Officers and media relations staff liaised with many journalists covering the march, providing information throughout the day, facilitating interviews with the police commander and continuing with updates into the evening and next day.

“Officers on the ground were briefed about dealing with media representatives and provision was in place for any accredited journalist to be allowed access to any areas, including the otherwise closed route of the march.”

2 Comments

  1. Janet Johnston

    The police did right. Sorry, but journalists will be the first to bay for blood if a person claiming to be a journalist got through with a weapon. This group of people should know the police searching them was part of protecting the public. Any one of these journalists could have attaempted to get a weapon through and if he/she had managed to, it would have been splashed all over the media on how bad a job the police are doing. Give tha police a break!

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  2. D Mac

    Totally agree with Janet. I am not in favour of stopping and searching journalists as I am one myself and hold a Press Card, however in my opinion holding a Press Card doesn’t give the holder free reign. If you are entering an area which is potentially hostile and public safety is a concern then you surely can’t expect to simply wander around without being approached. I can’t see a problem with what the Police did here, the journalists seem to be treated with courtesy and were allowed on their way.

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