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Journalist receives police apology after camera snatch

The deputy news editor of a south coast daily received a police apology after an officer grabbed his camera at the scene of a story.

Paul Foster, from Portsmouth title The News, had heard about a major incident taking place at a bus station and went to the scene.

A man had suffered a suspected drugs overdose in the back of a coach after returning from an all night rave and, after being taken to hospital, officers started searching everyone on the coach for drugs.

Paul had taken his digital camera along and started taking pictures of the officers in action but as he left the area a police officer dashed across the cordon and demanded his camera.

When Paul refused, the officer snatched it out of his hands and walked off, he said.

After complaining to Hampshire Constabulary, Paul received an apology from the duty inspector within an hour and the officer in question later returned it to Paul’s home.

Paul said: “Generally, the police are helpful to our photographers so I was stunned when this officer approached me and asked for my camera.

“I refused and asked him under what grounds he was doing this under. But the officer proceeded to snatch it from my grasp.

“I immediately went to the nearby police station and demanded to speak to the duty inspector. He called me up within the hour and apologised for his officer’s actions.

“Police can seize a camera for rare offences such as terrorism or breaking the Official Secrets Act. Not simply because they are a journalist and they feel they have the right to do so.”

A spokesman for Hampshire Constabulary confirmed the incident and reiterated the apology made by the duty inspector.


Kevin (01/09/2009 13:22:02)
I’ve working in Hampshire and other parts of the country and when it comes to dealing with the press Hampshire are the worst. Well done Paul.

cleland thom (01/09/2009 13:43:07)
I just wonder why these officers think they have the right to seize cameras in the first place. Who told them – and who’s telling them not to?

Mike (01/09/2009 15:58:39)
Does this amount to theft? If anyone else ripped your camera out of your hands and ran off with it, they’d be called a thief.

Iain (01/09/2009 16:20:54)
Serves him right for taking a photographer’s job.

Niel (02/09/2009 09:16:26)
Reading your report about Paul Foster and the Hampshire camera snatcher brought back an incident within 100 yards of that bus station in April this year.

Two female PCSO’s came up to me during the Fareham East District Scout’s St. George’s Day Parade. Having seen I was using two pro-dslr’s I was approached by the older (more cynical and bitter?) one and asked “are you a child photographing pervert?”. Further discussion, whilst I was trying to get the shots I’d been asked to provide, seemed to indicate that part of their training included “most perverts use professional camera’s”…So there you have it, perverts use pro gear, not cell phones and other small cameras! The younger one just smiled, she had a lovely smile too, and didn’t make any comment at all…And yes I was wearing my Scout “One World, One Promise” Necker!
NONE of the other photographers present, with lesser gear, got any attention.
Still what goes around comes around, The News ran a very anti photography headline a few days before:
Portsmouth, where being a Pediatrician gets you grief because the locals can’t read, and understand, English!

Sue (02/09/2009 13:03:40)
Trespass to property – not theft. Sue

Hannah (02/09/2009 14:07:33)
Trespass to property, theft, whatever. It’s not legal and the officer concerned should be punished, not just apologised for. What a plank to take the camera with no explanation, when he arrests thugs who do the exact same thing every day.

Richard (02/09/2009 15:37:34)
In June this year (2009) Lord Carlile QC, who reviews anti-terror legislation, warned police against mis-using powers under anti-terror legislation to stop people taking photographs in public places.
Section 58A of the Counter-Terrorism Act, which came into force in February 2009, bans photographers from taking pictures of the police if the photographs could be useful to terrorists.
Lord Carlile said this was a “high bar” and should not be used to interfere with day-to-day photography of officers which is “as legitimate as before”.
In his annual review of anti-terror laws, Lord Carlile said: “It should be emphasised that photography of the police by the media or amateurs remains as legitimate as before, unless the photograph is likely to be of use to a terrorist. This is a high bar.
“It is inexcusable for police officers ever to use this provision to interfere with the rights of individuals to take photographs. The police must adjust to the undoubted fact that the scrutiny of them by members of the public is at least proportional to any increase in police powers – given the ubiquity of photograph and video-enabled mobile phones. Police officers who use force or threaten force in this context run the real risk of being prosecuted themselves for one or more of several possible criminal and disciplinary offences.”

Rupert (03/09/2009 17:34:59)
The fact that comment is free means that our comrade Iain’s witless remark must stand. Maybe in due course he will reflect on how inappropriate it is. That apart, what happened to Paul is a reminder once more that this sort of conduct by Officer Dibble – and the plastic variant in particular – MUST be resisted each and every time with the greatest firmness. Well done Paul for your actions – had I been in your editor’s chair I would have had a page lead out of it. It’s the only effective way to make these idiots understand the limits of the new legislation which is referred to by another poster here, Richard. It really has got to be the blunt instrument approach, because only when it has been discussed at management level will guidance be passed down the command chain regarding the correct interpretation of this particular law. I would have front paged it in fact – that would have concentrated the minds of the local police chief and the local police authority. I think it highly likely I would have reported it as a theft – that would have got their attention too.

David Murray (07/09/2009 14:29:52)
This incident amounts to a criminal offence yet, as we see repeatedly, no action will be taken against the rogue police officer. What is needed is for a photographer to be the first to break rank and commence a private prosecution against a police officer for assault, battery, robbery and, if the officer was in possession of offensive weapons at the time, armed robbery. Such a person would probably encounter obstruction from staff and justices in the Magistrates Court and most likely, proceedings being brought to a halt by the Crown Prosecution Service ‘in the public interest.’ However, extensive publicity of such a case might have a chilling effect on other police officers. I hope that, next time I am challenged by a police officer for using a camera in public (as I am lawfully entitled to do) I find myself in the position that Paul did.

jason hurst (09/09/2009 11:04:44)
demanding with menaces, im certain of it!

Danny (15/09/2009 17:38:25)
I had a run in with a PCSO at a scene of a bus crash a few weeks ago. he was being awkward trying to stop me taking pictures. We had a great arguement where I pointed out the law and he blatently didn’t know it. eventually he decided to enforce a section 44 as i had a camera and was taking photos! Despite being just yards from a bus crash, surrounded by nothing but police, firemen the odd tree (which the bus had managed to hit) and houses the PCSO still insisted that he was perfectly allowed to ‘issue’ a secti
on 44 on me. I reminded him of the conditions needed for a section 44 being issued and also reminded him that I was still recording our conversation. I also told him I would be making a complaint as soon as I left the scene. After I refused to give my name/address and told him to just take down my descritpion he stormed off to talk to another officer, then came back and ignored me.
The official complaint still went in as did a letter to the borough commander.

Jeff (09/04/2010 13:46:42)
I spent two and a half weeks last year taking a thousand or so pictures in China on and off the beaten track, including some of the police, and they didn’t bat an eyelid! Food for thought cops
– are we getting into a police state?