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Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

CIoJ member complaint upheld by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner in Scotland

Release date: 8 March 2016

The Chartered Institute of Journalists says police authorities all over Britain can learn from an investigation into complaints by one of its members in Scotland who was stopped from doing his job when covering a news story.

The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner in Scotland ruled that Campbell Thomas’ complaints against a police constable and sergeant had ‘not been dealt with to a reasonable standard’ and recommended Police Scotland sought clarification and reassessed them.

Mr. Thomas is a respected veteran journalist who said when covering the aftermath of a road traffic accident in March 2014 police told him to stop taking photographs and leave the scene, demanded his name, and said his camera could be seized and photographs deleted.

Mr. Thomas had gone to cover the story after receiving details from Police Scotland’s Media Centre.

He told investigators he felt threatened and intimidated. He said officers had been ‘oppressive, rude and menacing.’

Chair of the Institute’s Professional Practices Board and Professor of Media at Goldsmiths, University of London, Tim Crook says:  “This matter has been properly reviewed and police authorities all over Britain can learn from the PIR Commissioner in Scotland that the concerns of professional journalists reporting news events in the public interest need to be respected.”

He added: “Police officers and journalists often find themselves working together in difficult situations. It’s vital they do so with a sense of mutual respect and professionalism.”

Campbell Thomas said: “Whenever any journalist, doing their professional duty acting as the eyes and ears of the public, is menaced by police officers it should be considered an attack on society itself.
We have a long-established system of policing by consent in this country and I am extremely heartened by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner ordering the force to explain their actions.”

Mr. Thomas has recently received a letter from Police Scotland informing him that they still support their officers’ actions.

Report of the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner PIRC/00234/15