TWO journalists have been awarded compensation and an apology from Sussex Police after they were wrongly detained and searched while travelling to cover a far-right protest.

The freelance photographers were driving with seven others towards Brighton to cover the nationalist March for England in 2013 when they were pulled over by police.

Despite having shown their press identification, Pete Maclaine, Jess Hurd and the rest of the group were searched at a Hickstead garage for offensive weapons.

Police cited public order and terrorism laws for doing so, according to the National Union of Journalists.

But more than two years later, the force has conceded that officers “should not have continued to search or detain individuals if they no longer had reasonable suspicion to enable them to do so”.

In a letter to the two journalists, the force added: “Furthermore, Sussex Police acknowledge that media perform an important role in a state governed by the rule of law to impart information and ideas on matters of public interest – information that the public has a right to receive.

“Sussex Police, and law enforcement officials generally, have a constitutional responsibility not to prevent or obstruct the work of journalists during public demonstrations unless they are acting otherwise than in accordance with the law.”

The March for England in 2013 drew hundreds of participants and counter-demonstrators to Brighton seafront, with around 700 police officers on duty to cover the protest.

The two-hour march ended peacefully, however, with 13 arrests made for public order offences, theft, criminal damage and possession of weapons.

Ms Hurd said the apology and pay-out was “great” but added: “A change in policing attitudes is necessary and a respect for members of the press.”

It is believed Mr Maclaine and Ms Hurd were the only members of the group to receive the apology and undisclosed sum. They were the only two to put in a claim.

Mr Maclaine said: “It took Sussex Police years to acknowledge that detaining and searching photojournalists under the pretext of a rescinded law was wrong.

“While it is important to congratulate the police when they get it right, it is essential to hold them to account when they get it wrong.”

Sussex Police pointed out that the their claim was only made in April 2014. Following an investigation which finished in February 2015 an offer was accepted in April.

A Sussex Police spokeswoman acknowledged that the media perform an important role but said: "Journalists are not immune from the law and it is hoped that journalists generally recognise that it can be difficult to balance conflicting duties."