Lights, Camera – Abusive Reaction

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Lights, Camera – Abusive Reaction

Lights, Camera – Abusive Reaction

  • a report by NICK HENDERSON on Whitby Town Council’s reaction to being filmed for wider distribution on YouTube. Events at this week’s meeting have passed unreported by the Whitby Gazette (whose correspondent was present throughout).


Tuesday 4th February 2014 was the date; 6:45pm the time.

The location; Pannett Park Art Gallery, Whitby.

The  occasion; Whitby Town Council’s February Meeting.

I arrived punctually at the Gallery, and wandered into the chamber where the Council meets on a monthly basis to carry out its statutory duties. As always, the hall is clean, tidy and a pleasure to visit.

Unlike some other Council venues, there is a hot-drinks machine available for visitors to obtain some refreshment. It isn’t “tea and scones at the Ritz”, but it is far more than many other Councils offer.

Within minutes of arriving, the Town Mayor, Councillor John Freeman, joined me in the ‘public gallery’ to ask if I had any intentions of filming the proceedings, to which I stated that I did.

We had a discussion about how, in his view, I needed to have permission of the Copyright holders of the artworks on display before I could film within the Gallery, and certainly wouldn’t be able to film the Council as a result. I didn’t agree with the  Mayor’s position, and he didn’t agree with mine, but our exchange of views was conducted evenly and with mutual respect.

Presently, the Deputy Clerk of the Council joined Cllr Freeman and I with some papers, indicating the guidelines issued by CPALC, (Communities, Parishes and Local Councils – the body which provides legal guidance for local councils) which state that Parish/Town Councils are not obliged to give their permission when members of the public wish to film. Strictly, this is only partially true – and misleadingly so. In fact, Councils are not authorised to withhold permission, which is not necessary in law.  Permission is not required.

I had with me a document from the Chairman of  ACPO ( the Association of Chief Police Officers ), stating that the public have no need to obtain a permit to film in a public place, and that  the Police  (nor anyone else)  has  no power to  prevent  the public from filming. The actual wording reads:

“Freedom to photograph and film Members of the public and the media do not need a permit to film or photograph in public places and police have no power to stop them filming or photographing incidents or police personnel.”

Next we come to the definition of “public place”. If we take a look at the Public Order Act 1936, and in relation to which, the Criminal Justice Act 1972, we find the following:

33 Extension of definition of “public place” in Public Order Act 1936.

For the definition of “public place” in section 9(1) of the M1 Public Order Act 1936 there shall be substituted—

“Public place” includes any highway and any other premises or place to which at the material time the public have or are permitted to have access, whether on payment or otherwise.

As a result, it would appear that, by definition, every  Council meeting constitutes a “public place”, where no powers exist to  prevent a member of the public from filming, or making a recording.

Mayor Freeman, went away, with the Deputy Clerk after being made aware of this information, to discuss the Council’s position.

After a few minutes, the Mayor and Deputy Clerk returned to the Council chamber to discuss this issue with the rest of the members present, and put it to them that there would be filming in progress.

Quite a number of those present expressed an interest in the idea of being filmed, and allowing transparency to prevail.

However, an argument was put forth that suggested that the Council was wary of the video being used in such a way that could ridicule the Council, or members of it.  So I was asked if I would be happy to provide a copy of any recordings made at the end of each session, so that no questions could be asked about the content of any video, and that the Council itself could be assured that no editing was taking place of any recordings made.

I agreed  to  this and paused the recording, and turned off the camera. You can see for yourself, here. The clear indication was that if I provided an unedited copy of the proceedings, then recording would be acceptable to all those present – irrespective of the lawful position.


Interestingly,  towards end of the meeting, Cllr Mrs Amanda Smith, queried the Council members present about an amendment on a proposal that was Minuted as having made at previous meeting, though  she did not remember  having done so. In the Minutes of the previous meeting, Cllr Mrs Smith  was said to have tabled an Amendment to a Proposal, of  which she  asserted she had no personal recollection. A lengthy discussion ensued, up to the point that Mayor Freeman announced that “our two colleagues at the back, in the public gallery, are gleeful that we cannot agree on the content of our last meeting” – whilst I wasn’t ‘gleeful’, I did find it fascinating that my idea of recording  the meeting would have alleviated the need to question minutes, and a lack of recollection. A clear indication, if ever one was needed, that a video recording of all meetings would prevent any inaccuracies from arising in Minutes, etc.

At the end of the meeting, which I might add was quite up-beat and productive (certainly not boring), I approached the Mayor and Deputy Mayor about the issue of filming.

During our conversation, it was made clear that a Council that embraced changes such as those being brought forth in the 21st Century would be seen to be ‘ahead of the curve’. It would also allow the Council to make the claim that it truly is embracing the ideals of transparency, in the modern age. The Council could also claim that it was attempting to engage the electorate in as many ways as possible, especially for the fact that by providing direct video on the internet, that people who would ordinarily be unable to attend Council meetings could participate via the video links on the internet – certainly the very idea of open and engaging governance!

Cllr Freeman certainly should be commended and applauded for accepting this idea.

However, the proceedings were brought into a negative light by Cllr Noreen  Wilson (Lab.), who attacked me verbally at the end of the meeting.

Her words to me, without provocation, or even any form of interaction, were:

  • “I will not be bullied by the likes of you into being filmed. You can  shove your camera up your arse!”

Those certainly are not the words of a fine, upstanding member of the community. They were witnessed by several members of the public, and Cllr Phil Trumper (at least). Whilst I have every regard for Noreen’s opinion, and respect her right to express herself, I’m sure she would be the first to cry foul if I had  were to address  her in a similar arrogant fashion.

Worse still, upon contacting her for a statement in relation to this issue (via email) her response was “Who are you and what/who do you represent please?” … this despite providing an email detailing that I would be developing  this story the next day or so, with a view to  publication.

All that remains, is to say that I will be attending the next meeting of WTC with a view to recording, and will happily provide an un-edited copy of the recording to WTC immediately after the meeting, in order to ensure that all parties are represented accurately.

Updates will be forthcoming as they are available.

One other slightly sour note should be mentioned. Members of the public leaving the meeting after only half an hour or so were surprised to see a Police car blocking the only exit from Pannett Park, clearing the way only when they had satisfied themselves that no activists were attempting an escape. 🙂

When the Police attended a Council Meeting at Seamer & Crossgates recently, the lead Officer explained to the council that there was no prohibition against filming. Regrettably, the Chairman, Councillor Harry Smith, stubbornly refused to accept the inevitable and promptly adjourned the meeting  – thus grabbing first prize in the Private Eye ‘Rotten Boroughs’ annual “Open Government” Award.


About the Author:

Website Admin for the Real Whitby Website. All authors of the Real Whitby Website have access to publish on the website. Individual authors will usually sign off their articles with their own names.


  1. Tim Hicks February 10, 2014 at 6:06 pm - Reply

    Glad to see Codhead back, I think it is his best cartoon yet.

    According to the reports I have received, the Police behaved very well when called to attend the Seamer and Crossgates Parish Council meeting and resolved the matter very sensibly. However, I do think it a shame that Councillors that call out the police to deal with this sort of thing cannot be charged with wasting police time.

    Most Councillors work very hard at their duties and should welcome the opportunity of being filmed working for their wards and constituents.


  2. Glenn Kilpatrick February 10, 2014 at 7:00 pm - Reply

    Hi Tim, that’s an old Codhead cartoon. Its a shame we can’t get him back on site. Maybe Nigel can work on him ?

    • Tim Hicks February 10, 2014 at 10:54 pm - Reply

      Hi Glenn,

      I agree. I really enjoyed the Codhead cartoons, I thought they were excellent.


  3. Glenn Kilpatrick February 10, 2014 at 7:02 pm - Reply

    Debate also taking place on real Whitby Facebook Group :

  4. arthur jones February 10, 2014 at 7:07 pm - Reply

    Dear Mr Henderson

    What is the main motive and reasons that lie behind Real Whitby taking videos of Parish and Town Council meetings in this manner.

    • Nick Henderson February 10, 2014 at 11:16 pm - Reply



      As for ‘Real Whitby’ making recordings, you appear to be mistaken.

      My article appears on Real Whitby, however, I (me) am making the recordings. Afterwards I make them publicly available on a popular video sharing site.

      The video, when recorded, is uploaded without being edited, in order to maintain a true and accurate record of the Council’s business.

      I trust that meets with your approval.

      However, I would welcome the opportunity to share a coffee and a sticky bun with you if you ever wanted to chat at length about this.

      I am contactable via this site.

      Best wishes,


  5. Richard Ineson February 10, 2014 at 7:13 pm - Reply

    Whitby Town Council have come a long way in the openness and transparency department, in the last few years. Gone are the days of gerrymandering and the ‘that’s democracy sunshine’ attitude which used to prevail at WTC meetings. I attend the meetings quite regularly and find them interesting,and that members of the public get a warm welcome and a fair hearing, with a lack of formality, which encourages public participation.This unfortunate incident is not typical and I do hope that Cllr. Wilson’s unwarranted outburst will not deter people of a sensitive nature from attending the meetings of WTC.

  6. william kidd February 10, 2014 at 8:51 pm - Reply

    A much needed breath of fresh air – a great blue print maybe for a national movement ? A cheap and edifying hobby for participants while also encouraging transparency.

    Every little bit of corruption and cronyism adds up to billions of wasted money.

    Real grass roots penetration to help the processes in a democracy and help the tax payers whose money is so often taken and treated with contempt.

  7. Nigel February 10, 2014 at 11:38 pm - Reply

    One cannot help wondering what exactly it is that Councillor Noreen WILSON finds so objectionable about having her performances as an elected (not co-opted) member made available to public scrutiny.

    It is interesting to note the discrepancies between these two Registers of Interest documents published on the Scarborough Borough Council website, here:

    and here:

    The government has recognised for many years now that engagement in public life necessarily and quite rightly places elected representatives in a position rather different to those held by the rest of us in private life. They bear the public trust; with that comes accountability.

    If (former) Councillor Noreen WILSON feels that she has cogent reasons to keep her activities out of the public gaze, she certainly did the right thing by resigning at Tuesday’s Meeting.

    But, whether as a Councillor or as a member of the public, her remarks to Nick do her no credit whatsoever. The Labour Party professes a zero-tolerance policy towards verbal abuse.

    My own view is that, despite her membership of what is generally acknowledged to be a left-wing political party (Labour), Noreen WILSON has behaved like an extremely authoritarian control-freak who simply wants her own way. She even supports jail sentences for those who feed sea-gulls:

    She probably thinks campaigning for transparency is a capital offence.

  8. arthur jones February 11, 2014 at 3:19 pm - Reply

    Dear Mr Henderson

    Thank you for the reply in which you state that transparency is the reason why you undertake filming of Council meetings including that of WTC.

    I was not aware that Whitby Council was not already viewed as being transparent especially when you consider the availabilty for the public to access agendas, minutes including information on their website without even the need to attend a meeting personally themselves. A view which to some degree is supported by Mr Ineson’s earlier comments.

    The cartoon depicting the council as all hiding from the camera is also in my opinion a little disingenuous.

    I also understand now that it is not Real Whitby which carries out the filming as it merely provides a platform for you report back on this action and its outcome. Any subsequent videos are not available on this website but are shown on that of YouTube

    • Tim Thorne February 11, 2014 at 5:38 pm - Reply

      Arthur, minutes of Council meetings sometimes do not tell the whole story. Some Councils (never been to a WTC meeting) persist in not minuting the lively discussion between members.

      For instance, questions asked in the public interest by elected members and the answers precipitated are not minuted simply because the Council says it is ‘not their style’ to minute such things. Filming the meetings overcomes such problems.

    • Nick Henderson February 12, 2014 at 12:36 am - Reply

      @ Arthur.

      Whilst online, I am not graced with the ability to put ‘tone’ into my words. However, without wishin to sound in any way negative:

      I am Nick. Please address me by that which I am called.

      With respect of your reply (where you thanked me) you are most welcome. Open dialogue is something I think is a great idea. Sadly, far too many people shy away from it, or hide behind pseudonyms. As you can see, I do not.

      The transparency issue is one, as Tim has rightly pointed out, that has caused much debate recently. In fact, during the meeting itself, the issue of minutes not being ‘recorded properly’ came up (as you can read above). An issue that suggests a failure to record properly. A video record, uploaded, unedited would alleviate that problem entirely.

      It would also give opportunity in the future to really scrutinise Councils, Councillors, and the ‘business’ taking place. Why would that be a bad thing? Why is there such resistance to change? After all; isn’t this the 21st Century?

      I’ve talked to a lot of people over the last two days, all of whom have mentioned that it would be a great idea for Councils everywhere to be recording their activities… There only ever seems to be vehement ‘opposition’ from people posting online.

      How about that coffee and sticky bun?

      • Alex February 19, 2014 at 11:25 pm - Reply

        Sticky Bun and a cup of tea . . . OK.

  9. Nigel February 11, 2014 at 4:25 pm - Reply

    Readers will no doubt view the following Whitby Gazette report ( some skepticism when they have reviewed the film of the early part of the meeting (which, contrary to the preceding commentor’s remarks, is linked here within Nick HENDERSON’s article).

    And, of course, when they have reviewed the BBC1 “Inside Out” documentary, aired last night:

    My advice to those who were not present 9and even one or two of those who were, but are infested with bias and self-interest) is to tread very carefully before maligning their betters.

    • arthur jones February 17, 2014 at 9:38 am - Reply


      You made the following comments following those which I made on Nick’s report on filming at the WTC. Upto date I have not had any reply, do you intend to supply me with one

      Dear ‘Nigel’

      Just for clarity was you referring to myself with regards to your comment?:-

      “My advice to those who were not present 9and even one or two of those who were, but are infested with bias and self-interest) is to tread very carefully before maligning their betters.”

  10. arthur jones February 11, 2014 at 6:30 pm - Reply

    Dear ‘Nigel’

    Just for clarity was you referring to myself with regards to your comment?:-

    “My advice to those who were not present 9and even one or two of those who were, but are infested with bias and self-interest) is to tread very carefully before maligning their betters.”

    The video is shown on You tube with the link provided as shown

  11. Stakesby Legs February 11, 2014 at 10:40 pm - Reply

    Congratulations, “arthur” you was just moosed. lol

  12. arthur jones February 12, 2014 at 5:17 pm - Reply


    Filming all Council meetings would provide an opportunity for those who would be interested to view the workings of their local government and their members but is unlikely to take place for all. I have noted that NYCC have videos of their meetings on again YouTube but how many people would sit down and watch these is debateable. It would however be likely to influence how some council members portray themselves.

    There is of course the added issue with local councils in that there is a personal aspect whereby council members can be known by others in the town or parish who, because of this, may give them little respect some of which may be printed on this website. It is often implied by those who comment on this website that all councillors are alike are in it only for what they can get out of it for themselves. Whereas some are like this and deserve the criticism I would like to believe, maybe wrongly, that by far the majority are not and they do their best for the areas they represent.

    I can understand the initial reaction of some local council members to being filmed they did not understand that this would be the case when they put themselves forward for election and see this as an intrusion, this is understandable. If this did become the norm then although it could be reffered to at a later date it is possible that the viewing would soon loose its appeal and not be watched by many but, this is only my opinion.

    • Nick Henderson February 15, 2014 at 1:26 am - Reply

      @ Arthur,

      “put themselves forward for election”.

      What an interesting phrase.

      The very idea of putting ones self forward for election is to be elected. The point of that is to SERVE the community. It doesn’t matter if you are being filmed doing the job you applied to do. Employees at Burger King are filmed on the company’s CCTV system. Where is the difference? No one was in the streets standing up for the privacy of fast-food workers when they were forced onto camera. As an Elected Member you are in the SERVICE of the community. If that community then wish to exercise their right to scrutinise you, by film, blog, or photograph, then they have every right to do so.

      As you rightly pointed out, not all councillors (elected or otherwise) are corrupt. However, it should be noted that when Councillors do a good job they should be proud of that fact – and take credit for it – that’s what I want to see more of.

      What possible motive would any councillor have for hiding from the public gaze? After all, didn’t they put themselves in the public gaze by being elected? It is as if they want all the credit and glory of being called “councillor” but none of the actual responsibilities that go with it – such as being accountable by the public. Public scrutiny (also reads as: ‘feedback’) should allow Councillors to understand their public, to learn from them and to make better decisions, and more informed choices for the community. Where is the harm in that?

      You seem too keen to defend the ‘right to privacy’ of PUBLIC SERVANTS… too quick to defend those who shy away from the public gaze despite asking the public to put them in a position of ‘power’.

      Whilst I am not, for one second, suggesting that all councillors want to ‘hide’, I do wonder why any of them put themselves up for election if they don’t want the public to know what they are up to.

      Answers on a postcard.

      • arthur jones February 15, 2014 at 3:10 pm - Reply

        Hi again Nick

        Thanks for the reply, I do not intend to continue overly debating this matter but have responded below and will again on this or related articles if warranted.

        Firstly I agree with you when you say that councillors are elected, or co-opted, to service the community in which they are a member and this goes without saying, should those who wish to scrutinise or ensure that they are doing this correctly then they can do this direct by attending Council meetings, as I do occasionally. They are therefore under the public’s gaze by normal means. Just for record I am not trying to defend the ‘right to privacy’ of public servants.

        Should you make the filming of council meetings a regular event then there will be an alternative to attending meetings provided for those who wish to use it however few or many this may be.

        You state further that “If that community then wish to exercise their right to scrutinise you, by film, blog, or photograph, then they have every right to do so.” I agree but would this also apply to those who does not reside in this community and therefore not subject to the service provided or otherwise.

        • Tim Thorne February 15, 2014 at 4:56 pm - Reply

          “I agree but would this also apply to those who does not reside in this community and therefore not subject to the service provided or otherwise.”

          Does it matter where the people filming the meeting are from? Are you saying that only people in that parish should be allowed to film the meeting?

          • a February 16, 2014 at 2:34 pm - Reply


            No not exactly but I suppose its like myself travelling to film say a Parish Council 50 miles away I have no idea as how the council and its members perform, represents the parishioners etc etc. It would be much more logical for a local resident(s) to, if they believed it would be beneficial to their community, to film and post on Youtube.

            What motive would I have to do this instead of them?

            • Yoda February 17, 2014 at 2:19 pm - Reply

              “What motive would I have to do this instead of them?”

              Clear your motives are. Repeat you do, no problem with filming you have, yet complain you still do. Revealed your opinion is. Problem with people filming you have.

              • arthur jones February 19, 2014 at 7:39 pm - Reply


                Read what I write clear that it is

  13. Ian February 13, 2014 at 9:39 am - Reply

    disgusted that Police were called to a council meeting because people wanted to demonstrate their freedom to film.
    not exactly a riot, decent people taking an interest in the town they live.

    • Tim Hicks February 13, 2014 at 5:00 pm - Reply

      Dear Ian,

      I quite agree. It is a pity they weren’t charged with wasting police time.

      Also a pity that Councillor Wilson was not charged with use of insulting words and behaviour.


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