Press photographer arrested at Just Stop Oil protest ‘incensed’ as police searched house

Police entered home while wife and daughter were there, press photographer Tom Bowles says

Zoe Tidman
Thursday 10 November 2022 10:04 GMT
Filmmaker and photographer arrested while covering Just Stop Oil protest

A press photographer arrested covering a Just Stop Oil protest said he was asked to hand over his wedding ring and was “incensed” to find police had searched his house.

Tom Bowles was one of three journalists detained this week while the climate action group caused disruption by climbing on gantries over the M25. Documentary maker Rich Felgate and LBC reporter Charlotte Lynch were also arrested while covering the protests.

Mr Bowles has now recounted his ordeal, as Hertfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner admitted the force had “got it wrong” following mounting criticism.

Photographer Tom Bowles was arrested at a Just Stop Oil protest on the M25 (Rich Felgate / Twitter)

”My hands were handcuffed behind my back and I was put in the police van,” Mr Bowles told Channel 4 News. “They removed my shoes and my belt, and wanted my wedding ring and I refused.

“They wanted my phone... they’d taken everything,” he continued. “It did feel no matter what I said, it didn’t make any difference. It was like dealing with a security guard rather than dealing with police.”

The photographer said police searched his home while he was still in custody that night.

“Three male police officers had entered my house when my wife and daughter were there... I was absolutely incensed at that. I was appalled,” he told the broadcaster.

Video footage showed the moment Mr Bowles was arrested alongside Mr Felgate at a protest on Monday.

Just Stop Oil have held multiple protests on the M25 this week (Just Stop Oil/PA) (PA Media)

Mr Felgate, who is making a documentary on Just Stop Oil, told The Independent they were on a public bridge observing the protest when they were arrested.

He claimed officers said the pair were being arrested for conspiring to commit a public nuisance and held in a police station for around 13 hours before being let go.

“During that time, the police were really, really questioning about our press credentials, having a lot of suspicion about both of us being protesters rather than press,” the film-maker told The Independent.

Sections of the M25 have been closed on a number of days this week due to protests (PA)

There has been growing criticism of the police’s tactics this week following the arrests, with a number of MPs saying journalists should not be detained just for doing their jobs. On Wednesday the chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council stressed journalists have the “right to report on any form of protest”.

And in an interview on Thursday morning, Police and Crime Commissioner of Hertfordshire Police admitted the force “got it wrong” by arresting members of the Press.

A Just Stop Oil protester being detained after they climbed a gantry on the M25 (PA)

Asked on LBC whether the detention of a reporter, as well as a documentary maker and a photographer, was an attempt to restrict coverage of the demonstration, David Lloyd said: “I am certain that there was no reason to arrest them such as you have given. As I said at the outset I think we got it wrong.”

Mr Lloyd’s comments come after Hertfordshire Police announced the arrests were being reviewed.

A statement issued on Wednesday said: “Chief Constable Charlie Hall recognises the concerns over freedom of the press following the recent arrests of journalists who were present at the scenes.

“As a result, additional measures are now in place to ensure that legitimate media can do their job.

“Primarily, officers have been instructed to ensure they conduct full and thorough checks before making an arrest decision, as well as getting a final approval by a supervisor before making any arrests of anyone who is identifying themselves as press.

“Further guidance on dealing with the press has been re-iterated to officers during briefings.

“In addition, Mr Hall is requesting an independent force to examine our approach to these arrests and to identify any learning we should take in managing these challenging situations.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in