Police apologise for arresting Milton Keynes photographer

Milton Keynes News staff photographer Andy Handley has had a caution rescinded and received an apology from the police five months after being arrested and cautioned for obstruction.

Last September Handley, who is now seeking compensation from Thames Valley Police, was handcuffed and arrested while trying to take photographs of a traffic accident in Stony Stratford. This was despite standing behind a police cordon and presenting police with his press card.

He was held for six hours, photographed, DNA tested and ordered to hand over his digital camera and memory sticks. Handley, who has been a photographer for 30 years, called editor David Gale, who unsuccessfully tried to argue in his favour.

Although Handley reluctantly accepted his caution, the police took the rare decision to rescind it and clear his name following action by the NUJ.

The union also helped to win Handley an apology from Thames Valley assistant chief constable Francis Habgood, who said: "I note that there has been considerable contact between members of the roads policing department and the Milton Keynes News office and I hope this has gone some way to rebuild the bridges between the two organisations."

The NUJ's Nottingham branch has worked with the Metropolitan Police to draw up guidelines for officers.

Part of the protocol states: "Police officers do not have the authority to prevent a person taking a photograph or to confiscate cameras or film, and such conduct could result in criminal, civil or disciplinary action."

Handley said: "The police had no right to confiscate my equipment and they seem to have acted in a cavalier manner.

"I was given poor legal advice at the time by a solicitor to accept a caution. A word of warning to other photographers or others in this situation would be not to accept a caution when you are confident you have not broken any rules.

"I advise anybody to check the new codes of practice on the NUJ or Metropolitan Police websites to check what the conduct should be for both the police and the journalist. I carry a copy around with me."

Gale added: "It was a farcical situation and I think lots of other contacts of the paper thought the same. I'm glad the police have seen sense and taken the appropriate action."

The NUJ is offering Handley further legal advice on compensation for the humiliation he suffered and the discomfort of being handcuffed.

Meanwhile, Nottingham freelance photographer Alan Lodge is to appear in court on 9 August following numerous delays. He was arrested last April on suspicion of obstruction after covering a police raid.

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