Police 'request BBC cuts protest footage'
Tuesday, April 5 2011, 10:16 BST
By Andrew Laughlin,

The Metropolitan police have reportedly requested the BBC's unaired footage of the march against government cuts last month as part of an investigation into violence at the protest.

According to The Guardian, detectives from the Met have contacted BBC journalists about the possibility of getting access to unseen material from the demonstration on March 26, when hardcore activists caused major damage to London's West End.

In a official statement, a spokesman for the Metropolitan police said that detectives were currently just "considering" requests to see unbroadcast footage. However, the National Union Of Journalists warned against the risks of handing material over to the authorities.

Jeremy Dear, the NUJ general secretary, described the move as a "fishing trip" and cautioned journalists not to risk being viewed as "information gatherers" for the police.

In an email to NUJ members, Dear said: "The NUJ has a long and proud record in fighting to protect journalists faced with actions over sources or journalistic material.

"It is important we do not allow the police to use journalists as information gatherers for their purposes. Such a move places all journalists at greater risk when covering public order issues and stops sources coming forward. The NUJ stance has been confirmed in various cases before the UK and European courts."

A BBC News spokeswoman said that police had been in touch with the corporation, but insisted that there was "no formal request for any materials from the BBC".

A Metropolitan police spokeswoman added: "As part of the investigation into the serious disorder and violence committed in the West End on March 26, detectives are considering requesting unbroadcast footage from media organisations.

"This is regularly a consideration for those responsible for investigating these incidents and is done after careful consideration as to its necessity.

"Such footage is obtained via an application to the crown court, made under the Police & Criminal Evidence Act 1984. As part of this process all parties are able to put forward arguments, should they wish to do so."

In 2005, police used court orders to seize television footage of angry clashes between protesters and police ahead of the G8 Summit.