Monday, 19 March 2012

News channels granted legal challenge to police call for Dale Farm footage

News channels granted legal challenge to police call for Dale Farm footage

Josh Halliday

DATELINE: 16/3/12

The BBC, ITV and Sky News have been granted a judicial challenge to police demands for footage, in what is described as an important precedent for journalistic independence. The BBC, ITN and Sky News have been granted a judicial review into a court decision that they should hand hours of unbroadcast footage of the Dale Farm eviction to police.

The broadcasters argued that the Essex police demand for footage filmed at the UK's largest Travellers' camp last October was too wide-ranging. They were told to hand over the footage – which includes video of a police officer apparently using a stun gun at close range – after a Chelmsford court granted the police production order in December.

However, Mr Justice Ouseley at the high court in London ruled on Friday that the TV companies should be allowed a judicial review into the court's decision. The high court is expected to hear the review after Easter.

The legal challenge comes after the broadcasters warned of a "worrying" increase in police demands to hand over unbroadcast footage of public unrest. They argued that journalists were in danger of being seen as an evidence-gathering arm of the police after a "deluge" of requests for unused coverage of the England riots, the Dale Farm eviction, and a protest outside the Syrian embassy in London.

John Battle, the head of compliance at ITN, said on Friday that the appeal could set an important precedent for journalistic independence in Britain.

"If we are successful [at judicial review] it would set an important precedent and would hopefully show the police that broadcasters do have a right to report independently and impartially and that should be respected," Battle told MediaGuardian. "We hope it means that the police will start to be far more specific when they come to make applications [for production orders]."

The Association of Chief Police Officers has attributed the rise in number of production orders to an increase in public disturbances since the summer riots across England.

The National Union of Journalists appealed the Chelmsford court ruling on behalf of the freelance journalist Jason Parkinson, who filmed the stun gun footage, and appeared alongside the BBC, Sky News and ITN, which produces ITV News, Channel 4 News and 5 News.

Friday 16 March 2012

© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

« share