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Weekly press photographer obstructed by police at crash scene

A press photographer from a weekly newspaper was obstructed by police officers when trying to take pictures of a road traffic collision on Thursday.

Northants Telegraph photographer Tony Waugh was sent to cover the crash on the A5 near Rugby when he was asked by two officers not to take photos because of the ‘sensitive’ nature of the scene.

After an argument with the two officers and a Northamptonshire Police press officer, Tony eventually captured the crash scene on camera just before the recovery vehicle finished clearing the wreckage.

Northamptonshire Police told HTFP that officers did not want pictures to be published as one of the vehicle’s distinct design could reveal the crash victim’s identity to relatives before they had been properly informed.

Northamptonshire Police did not want photographs taken of the 'sensitive' crash scene

Tony told officers that he appreciated the sensitive nature of the incident but time was running out for him to get any photographs of the crash.

“I needed to capture images before it was cleared, so I kindly let the officers know that they did not have the right to stop me from carrying out my job,” he told HTFP.

“The press office rang and I was advised by him to ‘listen to the officer at the scene’. I told him I would refuse to do so, as the officer had no right to prohibit me from carrying out my job. I then hung up.

“I spoke to the officers, again protesting my objections of being prevented from legitimately carrying out my job. I asked for their collar numbers and was informed of my incident number.

“I then asked if I were to take images, would I be arrested? I did not receive a reply. So I proceeded taking images without further delay, just as the recovery vehicle was leaving the scene.

“I cannot express enough the anger and frustration felt at being obstructed by these two officers. I found them to be ill-informed of protocol and completely obstructive.”

Tony says he also made an official complaint to Northamptonshire Police about the matter.

Northamptonshire Police said they also contacted the newspaper asking for the photographs not to be published.  It is understood that the pictures which may have identified the victim were not used.

18 comments

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  • March 3, 2014 at 9:49 am
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    Just an opinion !
    This happens when :
    The scene is under investigation and the police are producing photographic evidential material for prosecution.
    They will build a prosecution case and the charges and huge bill are then claimed from the guilty parties insurance costs.
    This can be worth millions of pounds of income to the police.
    They fear any other images of this evidence from been available.
    Court prosecutions have been lost when images taken by third parties have been presented at court which contradict “official evidence and photographs” .
    The nothing to hide nothing to fear is in fact the exact opposite here, they fear photographs and they fear them for financial reasons.
    Listen to what they say, they will cover the points above about “evidence”.
    The line about sensitivities is absolute rubbish, the fear is rouge evidence that can disprove the prosecutions case.
    Nothing else.

    A bit of insight from someone who knows.
    Take it or leave it.

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  • March 3, 2014 at 10:51 am
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    I’m with the police. They are in charge at the scene and are entitled to ask for no photos to be taken as long as they have a reason, which it seems, they did. They didn’t stop him from taking pics – just asked him not to. He took the decision to take them, which he was entitled to do.
    Where’s the problem?

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  • March 3, 2014 at 11:24 am
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    It’s one thing asking for images that could identify the victim before next of kin have been notified not to be published, but physically stopping them being taken is quite another.
    At my paper we have held off publishing pictures of distinctive cars in the past until family are aware, which I think is fair, but we have never been told not to take any. They are two quite different things.
    Sadly I think that trust in the press by the police is at an all-time low in many places.

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  • March 3, 2014 at 12:11 pm
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    One wonders about the outcome of a future playing out of this sort of scenario. An on the spot police officer decides that something shouldn’t be photographed when the photographer will be a citizen (non-Press) Photographer. It’s not likely that someone wielding a camera-phone is going to stand up and challenge the arbitrary nature of the officer’s decision and quote McNae back at them.

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  • March 3, 2014 at 1:01 pm
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    Whats a press photographer???
    An endangered species..thought all the poorly paid reporters had to take snaps now..they do at my place!

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  • March 3, 2014 at 2:09 pm
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    It’s nothing unusual for the police to think they can obstruct a photographer or reporter doing their job.

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  • March 3, 2014 at 3:00 pm
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    I agree with Northernhack. Just go ahead and take pix and see if jobsworth police do anything. Obviously be tactful and not take ghoulish identifiable pix of injured victims, unless they agree. Unlikely!!
    You’re in public place so work.
    I once had to argue at the roadside with two officers who’d been in a crashed police car. They were obviously upset but I just had to be firm and tactful. Took photos which were publishd. One showed PC sitting on road embankment with bloody hanky partly over his face as he cleaned himself and recovered. Pic did not identify him.
    In the aftermath of a bomb explosion for instance you’re bound to take general pix which show faces of some victims or first aiders.
    Unavoidable if you’re doing your job.

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  • March 3, 2014 at 3:51 pm
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    Although the photographer was not breaking the law and was within his rights, this does raise the question of decency and intrusion.

    Having worked with the families of RTC victims I know first hand how seeing images in newspapers or online can be a cause of further distress.

    Ian Braz – the line about sensitivities is not rubbish. I have known articles to be published before a death knock has been delivered. Similarly there have been cases whereby helicopter footage has been rolling before bodies have even been removed from crash scenes, watched by families before any contact with trained liaison officers.

    I am in no way anti-press and appreciate this is news, but have seen it from both sides. Photographs should, and on many occasions, are facilitated once officers are happy the scene is de-sensitised.

    The key to this is a good relationship between the media and the police press office and an understanding from both sides as to the reasons photographers may not be able to access a scene instantly.

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  • March 3, 2014 at 4:58 pm
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    Even more galling when it’s an Highways Agency jobsworth in your face.

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  • March 3, 2014 at 7:02 pm
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    When I arrived, those persons involved, and one of the vehicles, had long been removed from the scene. As far as I was concerned, there was no one to upset. But the officers still insisted I do not take images. This is why I got annoyed.

    My job is to capture images, not be responsible for what is, or is not published. I had to be explained this to the officers a couple of times.

    I’m tired of having to explain to those who should know better, their own protocol and guidelines.

    Hope this makes things a bit clearer.

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  • March 3, 2014 at 9:30 pm
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    Common sense on both sides is all that’s needed,this sort of incident is all too common with inexperienced police,and young snappers;its a an everyday small event..get over it

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  • March 3, 2014 at 11:15 pm
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    “Although the photographer was not breaking the law and was within his rights…” – so he should not have been interfered with as he was going about his business!

    The time to act in such as situation is immediately. The police can debate the surrounding issues with the editor afterward, as was done in this case.

    It’s funny how the police will zero in on someone with a DSLR while bystanders who captured far gorier details on their mobile phones are left free to film, presumably to immediately upload to YouTube etc with no moral debate!

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  • March 4, 2014 at 9:34 am
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    Heart of All Things Frugal – All I am saying is the police on the ground have a job to do as well, so don’t always assume they are purposely trying to prevent you doing yours. There may be much more to a scene than it appears. I agree with your point on citizen photographers and everyone should be treated the same.

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  • March 4, 2014 at 11:45 am
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    I’m with PC Plod on this one. If there was genuine concern that the victim could have been identified from the photos before the family was informed then surely that needs to take precedence?

    If photographers could be relied on to take the photo but hold it back until able to use it, as agreed with the police, then that should have happened. But I can understand the officers may have not trusted this would be the case.

    As a senior sub many years back I was sent a photo by our picture desk for a front page story about a biker killed in a crash. Only when laying out the page did I spot the body was clearly still there – lying at the edge of the photo. Needless to say I cropped the photo then gave the picture desk a bollocking for not double checking it before sending it over. Another reason why making whole swathes of backbench subs redundant is a dreadful move.

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  • March 4, 2014 at 12:49 pm
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    It is for editors to decide what should and should not be published – not chief inspectors down the local nick!

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  • March 6, 2014 at 6:08 pm
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    I am surprised this is a story, although glad to see the issue highlighted.

    It happens all the time, I can recall at least three occasions in the last 12 months where as a reporter being early on the scene the police, army, PCSOs have told us not to take pics, and even demanded the camera be handed over and to delete the images.

    Funnily enough the fire brigade are usually the most helpful, they never bother and will usually give you the odd detail.

    But for some reason police, especially those at the tape, take great offence in you turning up to record whatever is happening. I always found it bizarre that as more and more stock is put into press offices instead of helping build relationships it causes greater distance between those on the beat and the press, and in turn the public.
    They are drilled not to speak to us, so it’s not surprising that their first reaction is often to try and get rid of you.

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  • March 7, 2014 at 11:37 am
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    Drop Intro – police press officers aren’t there to build relationships with reporters but to replace them. Local World is already on about having police PR copy uploaded straight to its websites so there wouldn’t be any need for hacks to interfere with the seamless flow of propaganda directly to a public desensitised by the 24-7 deluge of
    nu-media dross to the nuances of who’s telling them what and why. EVERYTHING is advertising, or soon will be.

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