Worrying news from Manchester this morning where police decided the best way to solve a fight which had broken out in front of a court was to arrest a press photographer taking images of the brawl.
Sean Wilton was taking pictures of the brawl that broke out between two groups of men outside Manchester Magistrates’ Court following a hearing into an alleged assault on Channel Four’s Big Fat Gypsy Weddings star Paddy Doherty.
Police arrested six people and then arrested the 43-year-old photographer for breach of the peace before bundling him into the back of a police van.
Fellow MEN photographer Steve Allen, 53, was also threatened with arrest. Officers had told the two photographers not to take pictures of suspects’ faces.
It appears that the police office told Wilton to stop taking photos of faces didn’t want a discussion about it, and interpreted any discussion as ‘obstructing a police officer.’
When asked by HTFP about what happened Greater Manchester Police said:
“A photographer was arrested to prevent a breach of the peace and on suspicion of obstructing a police officer.
“Officers brought the situation under control and the photographer was de-arrested and subsequently released.”
On one hand, this sounds like a PR-speak way of saying the copper involved got it wrong. A a more suspicious mind might conclude that it’s a clever way of the police getting a photographer out of the way when it suits them.
After all, it’s hardly a good look for the police to be unable to break up a fight outside a court, is it?
The incident comes a week after GMP chief constable Peter Fahey said he wanted his officers to ignore ‘red tape’ when commonsense suggested it was wise to do so.
Sadly, this case proves that such a prouncement from a chief constable could have quite dangerous consequences. Judgement seems to have been severely lacking in the case of this officer.
The police authority in charge of GMP yesterday launched a consultation to determine how spending cuts should be made. Last year, GMP was acclaimed for tweeting every incident reported to it over a 24-hour period, so there’s clearly a desire for the force to be accountable and open to scrutiny, or an appearance to be so at least. Perhaps they need to work a bit harder at explaining that to the frontline.
In other words: Police officers shouldn’t be a law unto themselves.