Photographer's shock at obstruction ruling

Nottingham-based photographer Alan Lodge believes he has fallen victim to attempts by Nottingham Police to sanitise the reputation of the city, after being convicted of the ‘wilful obstruction of a constable in the execution of his duty”.

In March last year Lodge was arrested as he took photographs of a armed police response unit in Nottingham. The court heard that he was too close to one police officer and was ‘in his face”.

The test of the charge of ‘wilful’obstruction is whether Lodge knew that what he was doing would make the officer’s job more difficult.

After 18 months and 12 separate court dates Lodge was last week sentenced to a nine-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £400 in court costs.

Three weeks before his arrest, Lodge, along with the NUJ and Nottingham Police, had agreed a set of guidelines stating that police have no right to arrest someone for taking photographs.

Lodge said: ‘I am gobsmacked at the outcome. I didn’t do it, I am not guilty and I feel thoroughly affronted over the way I have been treated for 18 months for it to come to this.

‘I don’t think the verdict matched the evidence that was given. I have been contacted by press officers and friends saying they didn’t know what they would have done different.

‘My best evidence against not being too close to the officer is my camera’s memory stick. My expert witness and fellow photographer, Pete Jenkins, made an analysis of the imagery, which demonstrated that I was metres away from the officer. The one that was closer was the officer approaching me to shove me firmly in the chest and snatch my camera. I walked backwards as I always do.

‘I thought that I was doing what any press photographer could do in the street during a police operation. Despite the guidelines I am now uncertain about how close you can get and what directions you are supposed to follow from a policeman.

‘Nottingham does have a problem with gun crime and I think I have fallen foul of Nottingham Police’s sanitising of that issue.”

NUJ Nottingham Branch secretary Kevin Stanley said: ‘We believe that this case raises important questions about the relationship between journalists and the police. It demonstrates the kind of daily challenges faced by all journalists trying to go about their business.”

A spokesman for Nottinghamshire Police said: ‘We fully respect the rights of journalists to do their job and have been praised for our openness when dealing with the media.

‘In this case, firearms officers had been called to reports of an armed offender, and Mr Lodge’s actions could have had extremely serious consequences for the public, himself and the officers.

‘We referred the case to the Crown Prosecution Service, which decided that this was a serious matter and that it should be dealt with appropriately through the court system.

‘In this case, the rights of the journalist had to be balanced against the rights of officers to do their job and protect the public.’

Lodge is considering whether to appeal his conviction.

No comments to display

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *