25 October 2014

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Photographer who snapped jurors cleared of contempt

A weekly newspaper press photographer who was facing a possible jail sentence after accidentally photographing jury members outside court has been cleared.

Lucy Ford from the Banbury Guardian was facing a contempt of court charge after she accidentally took photos of two jury members outside Oxford Crown Court and then asked them to help her identify a defendant.

The incident took place on 28 January when she was at court for a case involving a defendant on trial for child sex offences.

Contempt of court laws ban people from photographing jurors and Lucy was asked by Judge Ian Pringle to explain her actions, because it could have led to the case being abandoned if the jurors had been intimidated.

But at a hearing last Thursday, Judge Pringle found there was no intent to intimitate the jurors and said he would not impose any punishment on her.

The move has been welcomed by Banbury Guardian editor Jason Gibbins who said he was “delighted” with the outcome.

Said Jason: “Johnston Press offered its full support to Lucy throughout the very difficult period. We were delighted when the court rightly ruled in her favour.”

The court was told that the photographer had quickly realised her mistake and told the jurors: “Sorry, I’m not supposed to talk to you”.

She had also apologised to a member of the court’s security staff.

At an earlier hearing, Judge Pringle said: “If it is right that she took a photograph of jurors leaving this court, that in itself can intimidate those individuals.

“It is only by good fortune that both of them were happy to continue. The trial could have been abandoned.”

Kate Wilson, defending, said that the jurors had walked into Lucy’s picture and there was no attempt to intimidate them.

16 Comments

  1. Observer50

    Forget the contempt part of it all and “Court Precincts” If I was her editor I’d be very concerned that a photographer, who didn’t know what the person facing sex abuse charges looked like, stopped a couple of strangers to ask them if they knew who he was?!

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  2. lensman

    Won’t be the first or last time the photographer ends up ‘flying blind’ No doubt she was fully briefed by her reporting colleagues and news editor… not.

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  3. Nov

    Bullivant Observer trained!

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  4. snapper

    Photographing defendents or anyone involved in a court case outside court is problematic. The only way a photographer can be sure is to go into court themsleves and identify who it is they are photographing. Even then the picture should be double checked to be sure. Was Lucy NCTJ trained? If she was she should know better than to approach anyone coming out of court and to ask them to help identify a defendent.

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  5. reporter

    Leaving the camera in the car and taking a 5-second visit to the public gallery could have avoided all this. Failing that, surely an ID with the court reporter?

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  6. ends

    Harsh comments people.

    “The jurors had walked into Lucy’s picture and there was no attempt to intimidate them.”

    Tough job snapping at court. She was just unlucky with a couple of twitchy jurors. A sensible judge saw no harm done.

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  7. aman

    Some stupidily harsh comments here.

    They walked into a picture she was taking.
    She realised her mistakes and apologised straight away.
    A bit of common sense from the legal types would have saved an awful lot of bother.

    Why are people so quick to judge and snipe at others on here?
    We’re increasingly pressed for resources and time. Maybe we should stick together a bit more rather than assuming the worse of each other all the time.

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  8. Kevin, Midlands

    Shameful. That this ever got anywhere near a court case I mean.

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  9. biter

    Reported court cases for years in the company of snappers and never known any of them to wander around asking bystanders if they know who the person is on a photograph. It’s pretty daft conduct to be honest.

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  10. Man the Lifeboats

    I take it the jurors went back to the judge and complained they had been approached by this photographer, but if there was no intimidation, why was it seemingly a problem to them.
    Court officials are generally, in my experience, the equivalent of medical receptionists, obstructive, unhelpful and downright petty minded

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  11. Bluestringer

    The number of innocent people walking out of a court to later find themselves pictured in the local rag under a banner headline “Sex Beast” is surprisingly large. Just saying.

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  12. jg, warks

    Glad this ended with a slap on the wrist. Could have been very serious but was always an honest mistake. I cannot image the worry Lucy had to endure in the weeks leading up to the judges acquittal.

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  13. Tog

    The impression I get is that it was the court security staff who, having heard the photographer’s ‘confession’, duly reported the contact. Had she been properly briefed by the reporter – assuming there was one – with a detailed description of the defendant, she should never have been in the position of trying to make her own identification and risking snatching the wrong person. Nipping into court for a look has always been a bit of a last resort for me but I can’t believe she actually asked people coming out of court for help. Still, hindsight is always 20/20 and no harm done.

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  14. John, London

    I always ID someone myself. There have been two occasions I have not got the person as I have not been 100% so didn’t take a photo. Yes mistakes are made, but you should always take steps to try and avoid problems. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t get the picture. This case will be down to lack of training and common sense of the photographer.

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  15. lensman

    “It’s not the end of the world if you don’t get the picture. This case will be down to lack of training and common sense of the photographer.”

    Bit harsh and for some editors it is the end of the world if you don’t get the pic. Maybe they would like to actually try doing a snatch pic.

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  16. Newshound

    And this is what happens when newspapers don’t do enough to train their staff properly. She clearly didn’t understand contempt law and her bosses have a lot of answer for in that case. I’m glad she was not punished but if she had been then surely the editor should also have been pulled up on this. Invest in your staff, folks!

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