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Police shift ground in indemnity form row

A police force which stopped a newspaper attending a press conference after it refused to give guarantees about how material would be used is set to drop its controversial demands.

Last month, HTFP reported how the Epping Forest Guardian was barred from a photocall at a huge cannabis factory after refusing to sign an ‘indemnity form’ for Essex Police.

Essex chief constable Jim Barker-McCardle claimed the force was acting in line with national guidelines agreed between the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) and the Society of Editors.

But SoE executive director Bob Satchwell denied that was the case and branded the force’s demands “outrageous.”

Mr Satchwell subsequently took up the issue with the force and, following further correspondence, it has now promised to carry out a “review” of the wording of the form.

The original form, which journalists at the Newsquest-owned Guardian had refused to sign, asked for an undertaking that no material would be used in a way that was “detrimental” to the force.

Anthony Longden, managing editor of Newsquest’s North and East London division which includes the Guardian series, said the form’s contents made “unreasonable demands.”

However it is understood that the new wording will revert to a template previously agreed between the SoE and Acpo, as opposed to the Essex Police version which in Mr Satchwell’s view went well beyond this.

Mr Satchwell said: “It seems that Essex Police have listened to our concerns. We will be talking in the New Year to Acpo about this issue and all their other media guidelines.

“They need to be reviewed because in several cases the law and other protocols have overtaken them since they were first issued.”