Monday, December 12, 2011

British Police Trample on Free Speech Apologize

Jules Mattsson was 15 years old when he went to a parade of military cadets in Romford, England. The police immediately came after Mattsson claiming that he was committing a crime by photographing the parade.

Several things were involved here. First, was the paranoia about people photographing children. The cadets were under the age of consent presumably and thus considered children. You listen to the actual recording of the incident. Note how the paranoid officer is attacking the boy for taking "photographs of children." Next, the police officer tries to claim that the boy has no right to take photographs of "military personnel" in in a public parade. Are they children or military personnel?

You can hear Jules standing up for his rights below. This is a recording of the actual incident. The police try to intimidate him by demanding his personal details. They are telling him that they don't need a law to do what they are doing. The police then try to claim he must have permission from everyone in a public place to take their photographs. Next they return to the claim that he was taking photos of children. Next they claim that the "military personnel" have to have parental permission to be photographed.

The police claimed he was disturbing the peace, hazardous to the public and that the police "were concerned about terrorism and that photographing police and police officials is a criminal offense." When the boy asks under what law it is a criminal offense (there is none) the office says: "You are an agitator." Then the police officer just announces: "You know what. I consider you a threat under the terrorism act." He has the boy arrested for NO legal reason at all. The police officer steals the boy's camera and they they grabbed the boy. And when the boy asks: "Under what law am I being detained," the police refuse to tell him, push him down stairs and threaten. Once again they return to the bogus claim that he has no right to "photograph" children.

One officer, who was attacking the boy's right to take photographs, claimed the photography violated the officer's right to engage in "covert activity" in the future. The officer is really stretching for an excuse here. They claim Mattsson is breaching the peace, claim they are doing it for his own safety, and claim anything that comes into their mind at the time, including that he was "causing anxiety" to the public.

Jules was pushed down a set of stairs and then held by police officers to prevent him from doing his freelance job as a photographer.

Yet, the day before the attack on Jules by police, the Romford police had to pay two other photographers compensation for arresting them using similar dubious legal claims.

According to press accounts, police also told Mattsson he was "running around being stupid and gay." Mattsson accurately described the police actions: "It was like being in the schoolyard," referring to the insults the police were throwing out. Chez Cotton, an attorney for the boy, said the police inspector's remarks "were designed to belittle." Certainly if police think being gay is like being stupid, then the gay people of Rumford can't expect decent police protection there.

Once again the police were forced to apologize for violating the law and paid compensation to Mattsson along with legal fees for his attorney.  The full apology from the police said:
“While reporting on the parade you were approached by Metropolitan Police Officers who prevented you from photographing the parade and subsequently arrested you for breach of the peace. The purpose of this letter is to apologise on behalf of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) for the distress you have suffered as a result of police actions. The MPS confirms its recognition that freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democracy and that photographers have a right to report freely. The MPS recognise that on 26 June 2010 they failed to respect press freedom in respect of yourself.”


  1. Is there any way to know how much compensation he received?

  2. I like this concept. I visited your blog for the first time and just been your fan. Keep posting as I am gonna come to read it everyday!!

  3. He received £4000, which, in my opinion, should be coming from the Inspector's pocket, and not the public purse.

    There's no news as yet of what disciplinary action was taken against the officers involved, but I hope that the Inspector in question has been dealt with appropriately.

  4. I agree. Compensation should be taken from the arresting officers and they should be removed from the force.