Photographer’s court victory

A PHOTOGRAPHER who has endured a year with the serious charge of affray hanging over his head was celebrating on 21 October after a judge at Snaresbrook Crown Court ruled he had "no case to answer".

A scene from the Holloway Road incident last year in which member David Jones (not in photo) was arrested.

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Freelance photojournalist David Jones was arrested on Saturday 16 October 2005 outside the Coronet pub in North London, photographing a public order incident that followed the Anarchist Bookfair nearby in Holloway Road. Pub staff had complained about a small number of people playing music on their ghetto blaster and called police. By the time they arrived, those with the music had left, but officers insisted on closing the packed pub - one of the largest in London. Trouble flared shortly before 7pm, after one officer made an illegal arrest.

David began taking pictures immediately, circling the scene for five minutes before being arrested. He said: "By this time it was completely calm. I was on the pavement and was taking a picture of a police car with a smashed window, when a police officer approached me and pushed me over without warning. Then another officer grabbed me, dragged me into the road, threw me to the ground and knelt on my neck. When I asked why I was being arrested the officer shouted 'Shut the fuck up!' and slammed my head into the road. I was quite frightened and decided for my own safety not to try and talk to this officer further as he was clearly too hyped up."

At the station David showed the custody sergeant his Press Card and gave a full account of what had happened. Despite this he was held for 24 hours, and charged with affray, which carries a maximum three- year sentence.

At the crown court trial (where four others faced affray charges) 19 police officers gave evidence, and David's photographs of the incident contradicted their version of events. When the arresting officer took the stand, he admitted that David had not in fact done any of the things he was accused of.

David commented, "It beggars belief that the whole thing got this far. No one was trying to deny that there was public disorder, but I've had a whole year of my life with serious charges hanging over my head just for taking pictures. I'm angry that it took a full year and a trial for the truth to come out."

During the trial a worrying attitude emerged when one officer stated his belief the people outside the pub had planned for a confrontation - simply because some of them had camcorders and cameras with "big lenses".

After David's acquittal, the jury later found the other four defendants not guilty.

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