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PCs to get urgent journalist awareness training after M25 arrests

Charlie HallPolice officers are to be given journalist awareness training as a matter of urgency following the M25 arrests controversy.

Hertfordshire Constabulary has confirmed it will undertake a review to ensure that any Public Order Public Safety officers and commanders who have not yet carried out journalist awareness training do so within 30 days.

The move comes after an independent review was carried out into the force’s arrest of LBC reporter Charlotte Lynch, documentary maker Rich Felgate and photographer Tom Bowles while they were covering a Just Stop Oil protest on the M25 earlier this month.

The awareness course was devised by the College of Policing and National Union of Journalists, with the latter body now calling for “a consistent approach” to such training across all UK forces.

The independent review, carried out by Cambridgeshire Constabulary, also made a series of operational recommendations related to the way the force polices such protests.

Hertfordshire chief constable Charlie Hall, pictured, said: “I fully appreciate the legitimate concerns raised by the arrests of the journalists, which was why I commissioned the review. I also rang and apologised to the accredited journalists who we arrested on 11 November.

“Whilst the review has correctly concluded that the arrests of the journalists were not justified, and that changes in training and command need to be made, it found no evidence to indicate that officers acted maliciously or were deliberately disproportionate. They made mistakes and I now reiterate my apologies.

“The review also affords some valuable learning, which we are acting on immediately, so that it can be used when policing future protests, and we will also be sharing the learning nationally.”

Séamus Dooley, NUJ assistant general secretary, said: “The National Union of Journalists welcomes the outcome of the independent review, which vindicates the strong stand taken by the NUJ.

“The journalists were carrying out their work in a legitimate manner and should never have been arrested and detained. The behaviour of police officers signals the need for urgent training and planning processes to ensure a repeat of recent incidents does not occur.

“We have worked closely at local and national level to promote a greater awareness of the importance of media access and a greater understanding of how journalists operate.

“Journalists were shocked to uncover the treatment of colleagues and the clear threat to media freedom and freedom of expression. We welcome the important recognition that police powers were not used appropriately.

“Hertfordshire Constabulary should now adopt the recommendations including improving officer training through resources provided by the union.

“We need a consistent approach across all police so that journalists are not restricted on the whim of individual constabularies.”