Broadcasters mount challenge to Dale farm footage order

Burning caravan, used as a barricade by travellers during the Dale Farm evictions
Image caption Violent scenes were filmed during the evictions as bailiffs evicted travellers from part of the site

A group of broadcasters and journalists have told the High Court that handing over un-broadcast footage to police risks interfering with press freedom.

Organisations including the BBC are challenging an order granted to Essex Police compelling them to hand over tapes of the evictions at Dale Farm.

Doing so would make the media be seen as "coppers' narks", the court heard.

The footage was shot during an operation to evict travellers from the site near Basildon last year.

The footage, filmed on 19 and 20 October, includes scenes of violence as bailiffs dismantled barricades.

The production orders were made in February on behalf of Essex Police by Judge Gratwicke at Chelmsford Crown Court.

The BBC, ITN, BSkyB, Channel 5, Hardcash Productions and freelance video journalist Jason Parkinson are all challenging the legality of the court orders.

The case is expected to provide guidelines on the use of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

Essex Police has said the orders under PACE were necessary because there were reasonable grounds to believe that the journalistic material sought "would be likely to assist" its investigations.

Gavin Millar QC, appearing for the media organisations, argued the orders were an excessive, unlawful and disproportionate intrusion into the media's freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

'Coppers' narks'

Mr Millar told the court the police were increasingly trying to seize footage of public disorder as a "convenient way to access evidence that may be used in court".

He said: "But it has given rise to great concern on the other side of the courtroom, on the part of the media organisations, that there is a risk they will come to be regarded as doing the police's job for them."

When asked about whether this meant that they would be seen as "coppers' narks", he replied: "Yes - it is a very hot issue on both sides. That is why the issues are something of a test case."

Around 80 traveller families were evicted from a part of the Dale Farm site which had been built on green belt land, after a 10-year planning dispute.

Judgement in the case was reserved.

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