Police taking no further action against arrested LS journalists
• Editor and features editor arrested in December while reporting on a protest
Two London Student journalists arrested while covering a protest last year have been told by their solicitors that police are taking no further action against them.
Oscar Webb, the paper’s editor, and Charlotte England, one of its features editors, were arrested on 5 December while reporting on a demonstration in Bloomsbury against police presence on university campuses which saw 34 others arrested.
Webb and England were kettled in the rain for over an hour along with dozens of protesters by Euston Square tube station. They were then handcuffed and taken into police vans despite explaining they were journalists, with Webb showing officers his National Union of Journalists (NUJ) full membership card.
Officers told the pair they were being arrested to prevent a breach of the peace. Later while riding in police vans towards south London they were re-arrested on suspicion of affray.England claims her arresting officer implied it was stupid she was being arrested.
They were both taken to Berin Underwood House custody centre in Croydon, where they spent around seven hours alone in cells and were never formally questioned.
The pair were released at around 5.30 in the morning. Webb had his mobile phone confiscated and had to wait nearly two months after his arrest before being allowed to collect it. England’s camera was also taken by police. They waited until 21 January before authorising her to collect it, and when she did she found it was damaged.
Both Webb and England were initially given bail conditions which forbade them from being at Senate House, preventing them from reporting on any protests there.
Webb commented: “If you’re covering situations like that, which press should be, it’s worrying that you can be arrested as a journalist for just being there.”
England said her experience “was really horrible”, but insisted her treatment was more favourable than others who were arrested because officers deemed she “didn’t look like a criminal”.
She said police “were inefficient and unhelpful,” adding: “In the van they were completely unprofessional. You could tell they were a gang of bullies who back themselves up all the time.”
“My faith in their competence and intention to bring about justice has fallen. I don’t think they care about that at all,” she said. “I know for a fact they didn’t have reasonable suspicion because all I did was take photos the whole time.”
England also stressed her anger at having her camera confiscated for so long: “I needed it as a journalist and couldn’t afford to replace it.”
England is currently considering taking civil action against the police.
Roy Mincoff, legal adviser at the NUJ, condemned the arrests, saying: “There should be some form of sanctions against the officers involved.”
“It’s always scary when the authorities ignore the rights of the media. It’s a vital tenet of democracy.”
A Metropolitan Police spokesperson declined to comment.