Arrest of LBC's Charlotte Lynch at scene of eco-protest 'in retrospect not necessary,' police admit

9 November 2022, 17:15 | Updated: 9 November 2022, 20:09

Charlotte Lynch was arrested while covering an M25 eco-protest
Charlotte Lynch was arrested while covering an M25 eco-protest. Picture: LBC/Herts Police

By Asher McShane

The arrest of an LBC journalist who was covering a protest was "not necessary", police have conceded.

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LBC's Charlotte Lynch was arrested while covering an eco-protest on Tuesday.

She was held for five hours on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a public nuisance on the side of the M25, despite the fact she had her press identification with her.

Her arrest sparked condemnation, and prompted an intervention from the Prime Minister, whose spokesman told reporters today: "It's vital journalists are able to do their job freely without restriction.

"I am cautious about commenting on specific incidents. Operational decisions are a matter for the police but the Prime Minister strongly believes in championing press freedoms.

"We wouldn't want to see those freedoms impeded whilst journalists are going about their day-to-day business".

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LBC Reporter recounts her arrest for doing her job at an eco-protest

Hertfordshire police said in a statement this afternoon: “With regards to the arrest of the LBC journalist, the circumstances of the arrest have been internally reviewed.

"Though the actions of the officers at the scene are understandable, in retrospect an arrest would not have been necessary."

They added: "Let us be clear that all of the forces dealing with the incidents on the M25 are not policing legitimate protest, but actions by activists which are criminal and are causing disruption, harm, distress, danger and injury to both police and public."

Two other journalists were also arrested while attending eco-protests in recent days.

The pair, both of whom say they have no affiliation with the group, had their equipment seized and were taken to a police station, despite efforts to show their press cards.

The updated statement said that Chief Constable Charlie Hall "recognised the concerns over freedom of the press following the recent arrests of journalists who were present at the scenes".

Additional measures have been put in place to ensure the media are able to continue to do their jobs, including officers having to conduct "full and thorough checks before making an arrest decision" and "getting a final approval by a supervisor".

The force added that Mr Hall is requesting an independent force to examine its approach to the arrests too.

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It comes after Lib Dem deputy leader Daisy Cooper sent a letter to Hertfordshire Constabulary, demanding an investigation.

"It is clear that these arrests were unnecessary and heavy handed, and blatantly disregarded the freedom of the press," she said.

She went on to add: "Notwithstanding the abuse of police powers, this disgraceful treatment of journalists who are also trying to do their jobs is completely unacceptable."

Meanwhile, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said: "Press freedom is really important and you will often want to be - and quite rightly be - quite close to where difficult things are happening so you can report it well and I absolutely, absolutely support that.

"The principle that you're going to be close to the action sometimes and we should be sensitive to press freedom, of course I completely agree with."

Home Secretary Suella Braverman later said the reports she had heard were "concerning", but added: "I think we should allow any investigation into what's happened to run its course and I wouldn't want to pre-judge any finding.

"I don't exactly know what has happened with certainty. I wouldn't want to comment. All I know is reports and speculation, if I'm honest, so I haven't read into it or been updated fully on the details."

Charlotte Lynch tells James O'Brien she 'just lost it' while being under arrest

Just Stop Oil - the activists behind recent road protests - have blocked the M25 for the last two days.

Protesters climbed gantries in multiple locations, bringing England's busiest motorway to a standstill.

Activists scaled gantries again on Wednesday - and a police officer was injured setting up a roadblock.

Charlotte, who has been a reporter for five years, was at junction 21 of the M25 in Hertfordshire yesterday with her press pass, an official form of identification carried by all reporters.

She said the only line of questioning was how she knew to be there, with the suggestion she should have reported the demonstration to the police if she'd known it was going to take place.

"We do have a free and fair press in this country," she told Nick Ferrari on Wednesday morning.

"It's not the job of journalists to do the police's job for them."

A Home Office spokesperson said: "Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of our democracy and journalists must be able to do their job.

"Hertfordshire Police’s Chief Constable has recognised the concerns raised, putting additional measures in place to facilitate the media and requested that an independent force helps identify any learning around these arrests.

"This was an operational decision made by police and we understand they will have needed to make quick decisions due to the potential risk and danger for everyone on the M25."