Saturday, January 05, 2013

Scottish cop under investigation for smashing man's mobile phone after wrongly telling him it is against the law to film in public

Two police officers are being investigated over videos which show them allegedly knocking mobiles out of the hands of members of the public who were trying to film them over separate incidents.

One case in Glasgow shows a man's mobile knocked to the ground and apparently smashed by an officer.

Another video, filmed during an arrest in Edinburgh, shows an officer marching towards the cameraman and smacking the mobile out of the way. The man involved claimed he was arrested immediately afterwards.

The first video uploaded in June 2012 shows a Strathclyde Police officer approach a group of men in Glasgow after a girl in a nightclub claimed they 'annoyed her'.

During the 9 minute-long exchange, viewed by more than 1,300 users, the officer repeatedly tells the group: 'If you annoy somebody then it is a breach of the peace'. The individuals maintained annoying someone isn't illegal but the officer replied: 'If it causes an annoyance then it is an offence'.

After about two minutes the officer says the group 'caused alarm'.

The policeman also stated it is illegal to film people in public at which point one of the group started their own recording. The constable then lashes out knocking the phone out his hand where it can be heard smashing on the ground.

The group can be heard asking 'if it's illegal, what about the paparazzi?' and questioning why photographers can take photos and films in public, but the officer does not answer.

The man, named by others in the video as 'John', said: 'Why have you done that? That's criminal damage - you broke my phone.'

No apology is offered to 'John' and the officer only reveals his number as A403 and that he was based at the Stewart Street station in Glasgow.

A Lothian and Borders Police spokesman said: 'We intend to look in further detail at the circumstances behind this incident in order to determine whether any action is required.'

They were also unable to confirm if the uploader of the video was arrested.

The second video uploaded in September that has 1,045 views shows three Lothian and Borders officers arresting a man in the street.

Two male officers were filmed holding the suspect while a female officer hit his legs with a baton and shouted: 'Get on the floor'.

The policemen then stumble as they struggle to subdue the individual.

The cameraman walks closer to the chaotic arrest as the officers finally pin the man to the ground when another officer appears from the side of the screen and grabs the camera.

The uploader of the footage, known only by his YouTube username as 'p59er', claimed he was detained for filming the incident. A comment beneath the video read: 'I got arrested for filming them. Go figure.'

A Strathclyde Police spokeswoman said: 'We have received no complaint in relation to this incident. 'We have passed on the footage and will look into the matter.

'In general terms, the police have no powers to stop the public filming or taking photographs, but this can very much depend on the circumstances.'

But they were unavailable to comment on what these circumstances may be.

The two Forces behind the two incidents seen on YouTube confirmed they are investigating the footage.

The uploaders of each video were unavailable for comment.

John Scott QC, top defence lawyer and former chair of the Scottish Human Rights Centre, said that police need to be reminded of their public duties.

He said that recording devices are a 'useful tool' to help bringing justice, but said they could make an exchange 'more heated'.'

In 2010 a letter was circulated by the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS) that confirmed the public have 'no powers' to stop the public filming them.

The letter, draughted by David McCall, assistant chief constable for British Transport Police, reads: 'I seek your support in reminding your officers and staff that they should not prevent anyone from taking photographs in public.

'There are no powers prohibiting the taking of photographs, film or digital images in public places. 'Therefore members of the public and press should not be prevented from doing so.

'Once an image has been recorded, the police have no power to delete or confiscate it.'

Original report here

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