Manchester-based news agency Cavendish Press has complained to Greater Manchester’s chief constable after its chief photographer was subjected to a five-month investigation and threatened with court, over a claim he called a murder trial defendant a “slapper” as he took her picture.
The woman complained to police after Andy Kelvin took a snatch photograph of her and her sister as they left Manchester Crown Court during the course of trial.
The woman was pictured making an offensive gesture at Kelvin, 41, during the incident. Police later contacted Kelvin and warned him he was being investigated for “harassment and public order” matters.
He was ordered to attend a police station, where he was questioned for two hours by a constable who had taken a statement from the woman.
The matter was then referred to the Crown Prosecution Service where lawyers considered the evidence for up to six weeks before saying there was “no case to answer”.
Kelvin, who has been a staffer at Cavendish for eight years, denied making any remark to the woman.
This week the agency’s managing director Jon Harris wrote to Greater Manchester’s chief constable Mike Todd saying the investigation was “unbelievable”.
Kelvin’s interview occurred on the same day Todd was meeting Prime Minister Tony Blair in Manchester about rising gun crime and he was unable to cover it.
On the same day a teenager was filmed in Manchester making a gun gesture at David Cameron while the Tory leader was in the city to discuss firearms.
Harris said: “No journalist should be immune from prosecution or investigation but I think some common sense should have been applied in this case.
“Andy of course said nothing to this woman while taking her picture, yet police saw fit to investigate what amounted to a trivial allegation made by someone facing serious criminal charges against an experienced photo-journalist going about his lawful duties.
“It may be an age old clichÃ© to say police must have better things to do with their time, but it is ironic that Andy languishing in a police station meant he was unable to cover the chief’s meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss that most important of issues – rising gun crime.
“Guns were the highest item on the news and political agenda at that time and yet Andy was being questioned by an officer about whether he called this woman ‘a slapper’.
“The surprising element to this whole business is that Cavendish Press and the media in general have an excellent working relationship with Greater Manchester Police and its press office and will continue to maintain it.
“Even the officer involved in the case expected the case to go no further. But Andy was threatened with court and arrest and we were waiting the best part of five months before the matter was dropped.”
The woman who made the complaint against Kelvin stood trial accused of helping a murderer flee the UK.
The charge was allowed to lie on file after the jury failed to reach a verdict against her.