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Deleted photographs: PSNI officer disciplined

Published: 10/12/2013

The photographer was challenged when police noticed him taking a picture as an officer put fuel into a police car.

The photographer told Police Ombudsman investigators that an officer asked him to delete the image on the basis that it could be "of use to terrorists."

He said that when he queried this, his camera was taken from him and all the pictures deleted from its memory card.

The photographer said when he asked for a written record that the pictures had been deleted, he was invited to go to the local police station.

No prosecution

There he was told the memory card would be sent for analysis, and a file sent to the Public Prosecution Service to consider a possible prosecution.

About three weeks later, the photographer said, he was told he could collect his memory card from the police station where he was informed there would be no prosecution.

The photographer then lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman's Office alleging that his pictures had been unlawfully deleted, and that an officer had been "uncivil" towards him.

He said his photographs should have been restored to the memory card once police were satisfied that he had committed no offence.

The ombudsman's investigation established that anti-terrorist legislation did not provide police with the legal power to delete photographs at the scene of an incident and a recommendation was made to the PSNI that the officer should be informally disciplined for deleting the pictures.

Investigators concluded that the police photography unit that analysed the memory card would not have been responsible for restoring the deleted images before returning the card to the complainant.

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