British Police are being forced to review policing procedures following a unique legal challenge which claims that police officers should NOT have the authority to act extra-judicially to impose sanctions on journalists in the proper exercise of their news-gathering functions in an Olde English rural community. The challenge, which is presently under review by the Chief Constable of Lincolnshire (England) has its origins in a claim by a community administrator in the rural riverside community of Market Deeping (on the border between Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire) that a local photo-journalist had "pandered to pedophilia" by taking a photograph during an award ceremony at the local community center to which the "press" had been invited. The photo-journalist (whose name is not being released for personal security reasons) says "paranoia for pedophilia has run rampant because of total ignorance of what it's all about! The photograph was one of a series of twenty taken quite legitimately at the community event, during which the local Mayor presented a series of 'Thank you' awards to local volunteers ... but all hell broke loose over a simple picture of two Brownies (junior Girl Guides = Girl Scouts in USA) receiving their award from the Community Center president, who is now the town's Mayor!"
'kiddie porn'? or conventional community reporting?
The photograph was uploaded to a private Facebook page for distribution for the local media to download and publish in print editions, but malicious rumors were quickly rampant that the unnamed girls (wearing Brownie uniforms) were the subject of a pedophile campaign on the dreaded Internet! The hapless reporter was then subjected to local censure, his wife suspended as a community volunteer and a police complaint made against him for demanding that action should be taken against those responsible.
A storm in a provincial tea-cup one might easily be excused for thinking, but... The local British 'Bobby' hunted down the photo-journalist to enforce an extra-judicial police order, effectively warning him of dire consequences should be continue to seek redress despite the enormity of the situation in which he had innocently been placed. "Quite naturally, I protested the imposition of the extra-judicial order which I believed to be of malicious intent," the experienced photo-journalist says. "It was totally ridiculous that I should be penalized for trying to protect my own reputation! I contacted the local police commander, Inspector Gary Stewart, and was told that while the order described as a UBW (Unacceptable Behavior Warning) 'does not order, does not judge and does not apportion guilt' is does leave me with a 'criminal record' which can be accessed by any future employer and used against me! It is quite intolerable since under British Law one is presumed innocent until proven guilty and I have never had an opportunity to challenge the malicious complaint against me in a properly convened court of law." There has recently been a flurry of questionable police actions in Britain including a complaint against an 80-year-old pensioner for taking pictures of an empty park swimming pool "because the photograph could have included children". A freelance photographer was detained briefly by police on suspicion of pedophilia for taking pictures of a deserted beach (because if the risk that children could have been included in the picture). Britain's ChildNet International advises members of the public on what to do and what not to do with regards to photographic children but a press spokesman said that there is a heightened paranoia over child pornography which is mostly founded in complete ignorance of the subject and hysterical media reports of genuine cases of child abuse. The organization reviewed the picture of the two unnamed Brownies and concluded that it was NOT pornographic and NOT offensive, neither was it a danger to the little girls since they remain unidentified by name.
"Children enjoy having their pictures published in newspapers and nowadays also on the Internet," a ChildNet official said. "Of course due consideration must be given to protect innocent children from the attention of pedophiles, for which reason it is general ill-advised to take photographs of young children in swimming costumes or otherwise undressed." The photo-journalist's situation is made worse by the fact that, following a Freedom of Information Act (2000) request he discovered that the UBW was also been filed with the local county authorities with the implication that he could have been sentenced to up to five years imprisonment and eviction from his home as well as automatic refusal of re-housing rights... Local conservative politician, former Stamford Town Mayor, Mr. Terl Bryant has reviewed the extra-judicial police procedure and says it came as a complete surprise to him that any police organization could act in a manner prejudicial to a citizen's right to a court hearing if charges are brought. The police, on the other hand, say that the extra-judicial warning is "a recognized method employed by Lincolnshire police and is fully supported by the (local) South Kesteven Crime & Reduction Partnership." County official, retired police officer, Mr. Sandy Kavanagh, however, denies having any part in the police procedure despite the Lincolnshire police's claim. British Member of Parliament, Mr. John Hayes (MP for South Holland and The Deepings), has taken a legislative interest in the case which has now been forwarded to Lincolnshire County South Division Commander, Chief Superintendent Carl Langley by Lincolnshire Chief Constable Richard Crompton in response to the MP's enquiries. The photojournalist, in his own defense, says"The extra-judicial action does NOT afford me any opportunity to challenge my accusers in a court of law, and is therefore an anathema to any sense of what is generally known as British Justice!"