`Substantial' settlement for photographer over drug falsehood

PHOTOGRAPHER Alan Lodge has received a "substantial settlement" from Avon and Somerset police after suing them for malicious falsehood.

Alan, better known as Tash, first came to public (and police) attention for his photos of the "Battle of the Beanfield" near Stonehenge in 1985. Kim Sabido of ITN described "some of the most brutal police treatment of people that I've witnessed in my entire career as a journalist",

Alan "Tash" Lodge

as people described as New Age Travellers were "clubbed whilst holding babies in their arms in coaches around this field". This footage was lost by ITN. The Earl of Cardigan was there: "when I saw babies showered with glass by riot police smashing windows, I thought of my own baby lying in her cradle 25 miles away in Marlborough." (The Earl settled with the The Times, The Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and the Daily Mirror over their portrayals of him as he was giving court evidence about the behaviour of Avon and Somerset police.)

Six years later, in 1991, Tash was prevented, under threat of arrest, from photographing police action at a "free festival" near Inglestone. At the time he was acting as a trustee of Festival Welfare Services. The next year he received a copy of an internal police document entitled "Operation Nomad Bulletin". It harked back to the Beanfield, advised officers to beware him photographing their activities and described him as a drug-dealer.

He received legal aid for a rare prosecution for malicious falsehood -- no legal aid is available for libel. Six years on again, Avon and Somerset police deny that the document's contents amounted to malicious falsehood and do not accept liability, but have agreed to pay Tash in settlement of his claim and to pay his costs.

He notes that "Police are increasingly using various legal `devices' to remove photographers from the scene of actions where the police feel that they may be portrayed in a less-flattering light!" The Freelance is told, for example, that three videographers arrested as protesters openly set out to destroy genetically-modified crops near Totnes last month were told they would be charged with conspiracy. We have not yet succeeded in contacting the three.

  • The NUJ's Annual Delegate Meeting in February passed a motion from London Freelance Branch which among other things instructs the National Executive Committee to "call, organise, finance and attend dignified collective defiance by journalists of future reporting bans" -- provided, of course, as the NEC pointed out after ADM, that such bans are themselves not legal.

Sep/Oct 1998
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