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Did Guardian photographer of Tomlinson assault risk ten years in prison?

April 8th, 2009 Posted in UK Politics by

Here’s a worrying thought, following the announcement of an IPCC enquiry into the death of Ian Tomlinson.

Was the American investment fund manager who took the footage potentially committing a crime himself?

In February of this year, s76 of the Counter Terrorism Act came into force. It permits the arrest of anyone found “eliciting, publishing or communicating information” relating to members of the armed forces, intelligence services and police officers, which is “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”.

At the time, the BBC reported that anyone taking a photograph of a police officer could be deemed to have committed a criminal offence.

Whilst a New York banker might sound like an unlikely candidate to be an al-Qaeda terrorist suspect, the police were clearly signalling in advance of the protests that they were considering the use of anti-terrorist measures.

Fortunately – for the sake of a full and proper inquiry into possible manslaughter – no police officer ripped the video camera from the New York banker’s hands. And, surely, it is inconceivable that any jury would have convicted him.

But given this latest mammoth embarrassment to the police – in which their first public statements on the incidents surrounding Mr. Tomlinson’s death have now been shown to be untruths – expect s76 powers to be used more widely in future. Not to protect anyone from terrorists, but rather to shield the police from proper public scrutiny.

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