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Police cleared over activist photos

The Metropolitan Police have been cleared by the High Court of acting unlawfully in photographing a anti-arms trade activist at an event in central London who had committed no crime.

Andrew Wood, from Oxford, had complained that the Met's policy of openly taking pictures of demonstrators on the basis that they might become involved in future protests was an illegal interference with a citizen's right to take part lawfully and peacefully in political activity.

Mr Wood said the taking and retaining of photos of him when he was media co-ordinator for the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), attending the AGM of a company involved in organising arms industry fairs, was oppressive and bordered on harassment.

But Mr Justice McCombe said Mr Wood, representing a high-profile pressure group, was photographed in a public street in circumstances in which the presence of the police - and, for that matter, the press - must have been expected.

The images taken by the police were to be retained, without general disclosure, for very limited purposes.

If there was any interference with Mr Wood's rights, it was "in accordance with the law and proportionate", the judge said.

The court heard that Mr Wood was photographed after attending the AGM of Reed Elsevier, parent company of Spearhead Exhibitions, which had been targeted by activists in the past. He had bought a share in the company, which entitled him to attend.

The police insisted that the photos, which they said were taken in a friendly and non-intimidatory way, would have been destroyed shortly after the September 2005 event at an hotel in Grosvenor Square, central London.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2008, All Rights Reserved.The full article contains 291 words and appears in Press Association newspaper. Last Updated: 22 May 2008 3:32 PM. Source: Press Association. Location: The Press Association Newsdesk

Published in the Ayrshire Extra, at: http://www.ayrshireextra.co.uk/latest-london-news/Police-cleared-over-activist-photos.4111695.jp

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