Hertfordshire Police arrested journalists reporting on the Just Stop Oil protest on the M25 and Charlotte Lynch who is a LBC reporter had “handcuffs banged” on her wrists.
The “police are heavy handed as usual” and it is “extremely concerning” that journalists are being arrested for reporting the facts in a society which has the freedom of speech.
Charlotte was only asked by Hertfordshire Police “how I knew to be there” and was then arrested for covering “an eco-protest.”
She was at Junction 21 of the M25 in Hertfordshire on Tuesday and had shown the police her press card which is recognised by all police forces throughout the UK.
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Charlotte who looked visibly upset and tearful, told Nick Ferrari on LBC, “I’d been there for around 45 minutes before two male officers approached me and questioned what I was doing as I was taking pictures and videos of the protester,” she said, recounting her story to Nick on Wednesday morning.
“I was on a road bridge over the motorway… well clear of the demonstration.
“I was not down on the motorway, I wasn’t with the protester.
“I immediately showed these officers my press card and explained I worked for LBC… and I explained I was there reporting on the protest.”
'The only question was how I knew to be there.'
— LBC (@LBC) November 9, 2022
Hertfordshire Police asked how she had got there, Charlotte told them she had arrived by car and was then asked how she knew to at Junction 21.
She then said that Just Stop Oil had posted their intention to protest on social media, then minutes later “handcuffs were banged onto my hands” and her phone was “immediately snatched away.”
She was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a public nuisance, she was then searched by a female police constable and taken in a custody van to Stevenage police station which took an hour.
Some fine footage of yesterday’s arrest. My additional concern is that three male officers turned up at my house, woke my wife and daughter, and searched it at 11pm. I finally arrived home at 3.30am. @TheBPPA @Storypicagency https://t.co/wDEuIXj4jd
— Tom Bowles (@tomsdinner) November 8, 2022
“My rights were read to me so at that point I kept my mouth shut,” she said. Once she arrived at Stevenage Police station her DNA was taken, finger printed and a mugshot taken and was then chucked in to a cell and left there for around five hours, she added.
Laughably Hertfordshire Police claim that they had “reasonable grounds at the time to make an arrest in order to ascertain the circumstances surrounding their presence at the location.”
“We do have a free and fair press in this country,” she told Ferrari.
“It’s not the job of journalists to do the police’s job for them,” by informing them that they have seen on social media there will be a protest.
The Education Secretary Gillian Keegan told LBC’s Ferrari, “Journalists shouldn’t get arrested for doing their job.”
She added, “We are defenders of free speech.”
Shami Chakrabarti, a Labour peer, activist and shadow Attorney General, said that “balances [have] to be struck” between the right to protest and public order, however, “everybody has a right to fair reporting” and should not be arrested for doing their jobs.
Chakrabarti added, All listeners will understand that the police do a difficult job and there are balances to be struck on a daily basis between the right to protest on one hand and road safety, public order on the other, but this is a different question because everybody has a right to fair reporting.
“And if the police are now going to start arresting journalists for conspiracy to commit a public nuisance – in other words for knowing that a demonstration is about to take place – then they are effectively shutting down the free press, the free media, in this country.
“And that means the public don’t get the opportunity to judge for themselves whether the police have policed a particular demonstration well or badly, or indeed whether the protesters behaved well or badly.
“So this is very, very serious.”
In a ridiculous attempt to justify their actions, a spokesperson for Hertfordshire Police said, “As always, our priority remains to ensure public safety – we have a responsibility for the health and safety of all those involved and everyone at the scene, including emergency services, members of the public, members of the press and the protestors themselves.
“These operations are very fluid and fast moving, with the potential to cause widespread and sustained disruption, that not only affects Hertfordshire’s stretch of the M25 but also the wider road networks.
“Our officers have been instructed to act as quickly as they can, using their professional judgement, to clear any possible protestors in order to get roads up and running and to prevent anyone from coming to harm.
“Three people were arrested in connection with protest activity on the M25 in Hertfordshire today (Tuesday 8 November). Of these three, two remain in police custody. The third person was released with no further action.
“Though as a matter of course we do not comment on the circumstances surrounding individual arrests, the arresting officer would have had reasonable grounds at the time to make an arrest in order to ascertain the circumstances surrounding their presence at the location. As is standard practice with large scale operations such as these, all elements including tactics and grounds for arrest remain constantly under review and development.”