A photographer has accused a council of a whitewash after it rejected his complaint about a town mayor who stopped him taking pictures of an Olympic torchbearer.
Picture: The mayor with the Olympic torchbearer, pictured in July (photo credit: Stan Green)
Photographer Stan Green lodged a complaint about Lymington Town Mayor Jacqueline England with whom he clashed while taking pictures in the Hampshire town in July.
Green said he was standing in a public place on the quayside when he tried to take photos of the mayor and torchbearer who were accompanied by an official photographer.
‘She stormed towards me… It was a totally public area,’ he told Amateur Photographer (AP) at the time, adding that he managed to grab five shots from 20 feet away.
The retired architect said the mayor demanded he delete the photos and claims that she called him a ‘nasty piece of work’.
England admitted that she had asked Green to delete the images he had taken.
New Forest District Council rejected Green’s complaint about the mayor’s behaviour, on the grounds that a full independent investigation would involve ‘considerable expense’.
The council added that there was no suggestion of England having committed any wrongdoing in carrying out her statutory responsibilities.
Speaking in July, England claimed that the ‘Fisherman’s Quay’ area of the harbour was ‘not really a public place’.
‘He sprung on us… he didn’t say who he was, where he came from or where they [the pictures] would be published,’ she said.
However, in the wake of the council’s rejection, Green has today called on the council to give a full account of the words used by the mayor.
Green compared the controversy to ‘plebgate’ – where politician Andrew Mitchell MP declined to give a full account of the words he used when addressing a Downing Street police officer last month.
There is no suggestion that the mayor called the photographer a ‘pleb’, however.
Responding to the council’s decision, Green added: ‘I was hoping for an apology and admission that the public are perfectly entitled to take photographs in public places without being challenged. This is a common situation which has become most prevalent in recent years.’
When contacted by AP this morning, the council did not respond to a request for clarification on the actual words used by the mayor and, at the time of writing, Jacqueline England had yet to respond to requests for comment.
As part of its complaints process, the council said it considered comments made in an article published in AP that included a claim by the mayor that Green’s behaviour ‘bordered on aggressive’.
In a statement rejecting Green’s complaint, the council said. ‘It is clear to the [complaints monitoring] team that Mr Green’s and Cllr England’s respective perceptions of what passed between them on 14 July 2012 differ significantly.’
The council went to say that it would be ‘wholly disproportionate’ to use public funds to examine the matter further.
The mayor told the council that she had four independent witnesses who were prepared to support her view of events.
In reaching its 9 October decision, council officials considered whether England had breached two areas of its code of conduct in force at the time: You must treat others with respect; and you must not conduct yourself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing your office or authority into disrepute.
The council’s full statement, which has been seen by AP, added: ‘The team considers that the only way in which a reasonable person could be satisfied as to precisely what Cllr England said and did, the extent in which her words and actions may have been influenced by her perception of Mr Green’s behaviour, and consequently whether or not it could reasonably be found that she had failed to treat him with respect and/or had brought her office or authority into disrepute, would be to arrange a full independent investigation of what had occurred, with interview of witnesses.
‘This would involve considerable expense.’
Green had travelled to Lymington, from his home in Berkshire, to take the Olympic torchbearer photos.