Nottingham photographer found guilty of obstruction

Nottingham photographer Alan Lodge has been found guilty of wilfully obstructing a police officer after eighteen months and 12 separate court dates.

Lodge was sentenced to a nine month conditional discharge and was ordered to pay £400 in court costs.

He had previously worked with the NUJ and Nottingham Police to agree guidelines stating that police have no right to arrest someone for taking photographs.

The court heard that Lodge was taking photographs of armed officers when one of them asked him to move to another location. After initially refusing to move, he then did so, but was arrested, and his equipment seized, because he had been standing in a position where he was in front of an officer and had obstructed his view of the operation.

Lodge had denied that he obstructed any officer’s view, arguing in his defence that he had done nothing wrong and was entitled to take photographs in a public place.

Nottinghamshire Crown Prosecution Service lawyer Anne McCarroll said: “The prosecution’s case was that by standing so closely in front of the armed response officer, Mr Lodge was obstructing his line of view needed to carry out his duty.

“The officer was responding to reports of an armed suspect, and participating in a sensitive operation which required the observation of a specific area. Mr Lodge was asked to move but declined to do so.

“The file of evidence was received from the police and reviewed in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors. We were satisfied there was sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction, and that it was in the public interest to proceed with this matter. This was a serious matter which has been dealt with appropriately through the court system.”

NUJ Nottingham Branch Secretary Kevin Stanley said: ‘We are naturally disappointed at the courts’ decision today. However, it does demonstrate the kind of daily challenges faced by all journalists trying to go about their business.

‘We believe that this case raises important questions about the relationship between journalists and the police.

‘We particularly call on Nottinghamshire Police to ensure that guidelines issued to police staff and journalists more than eighteen months ago; are properly followed by officers. The guidelines, endorsed by the Chief Constable, state that journalists should not be moved on or arrested simply for doing their job.

‘Despite the best efforts of the corporate communications department of Nottinghamshire Police, we feel that not enough rank-and-file officers fully understand the need for these guidelines or why they are so important. We therefore call upon the chief constable to reiterate the letter and the spirit of the guidelines to all officers.”

Lodge and the NUJ Nottingham branch will be taking legal advice on whether to take this case to appeal.

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