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Parents shocked to be asked 'Are you a Tory?'

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Tory incumbent David Tredinnick has angered parents and constituents in Bosworth and Hinckley for allegedly using photos of their children in campaign literature without permission or acknowledgment.

In a move that might in other circumstances have had police beating down his door, it is alleged that Tredinnick’s companion volunteered to take photos of children from a local school "posing" with their MP when an official photographer from the local press failed to turn up.

There is, of course, no law to prevent Tredinnick, who is standing in Bosworth and Hinckley, doing this; and although the head teacher of Battling Brook Primary has written to parents confirming that the school has very strict rules around the taking of photographs of its pupils, it seems likely that no offence has been committed.

But for those who have followed the story of the Great British photo panic over the last few years, this incident may prove instructive.

The taking or making of indecent photographs of children is expressly covered by the Children Act 1978.

But although the children’s inclusion in a photograph apparently endorsing the local Tory candidate may be embarrassing or distasteful to them, it certainly does not count as abuse.

The school requires parents to sign a form granting permission for photographs of their children to be taken only when the circumstances - such as school plays or for local press stories – could be considered "for the benefit of the school". Whether such an undertaking has any legal weight is a matter that has been debated many times during the past couple of years.

Schools run by the LEA are likely to count as "public places": it is therefore questionable whether any general prohibition on parents taking photos could have legal effect. A parent insisting on taking photos in the teeth of opposition from other parents might be committing a Breach of the Peace. Otherwise, individuals have few rights over images of themselves or their children – unless those images are subsequently used for commercial gain.

In this instance, the matter that angered some parents was the suggestion that the photos might be used to further the career of their local Tory MP.

One parent, Claire Kettle, told politics.co.uk that the first thing she knew about the photo being used in Tredinnick's campaign literature was when another parent at the school approached her to ask if she was a Tory – because a picture of her son appeared on a campaign leaflet for Tredinnick.

Mrs Kettle further added that the Tory candidate was dismissive of her concerns. She said: "He tried to tell me that the leaflets were not campaign leaflets. But both say vote David Tredinnick on them at the bottom so I don't see how they aren't.

"He tried to tell me it was OK because the picture appeared in the local press but it definitely did not go to the press. He didn't take me very seriously at all."

If the claims are true, this will not be the first time that Tredinnick has been in hot water over the misuse of photos. He was also ordered last year to repay £1,945 for using his Westminster newsletter as a party political document.

The House of Commons Committee on Standards and Privileges concluded that Tredinnick had breached rules on expenses by including seven captioned photographs of himself with local Conservative councillors and a Conservative Euro MP in a Westminster Report leaflet distributed in the run-up to the last election.

He was also in trouble over a claim for £125 made on his parliamentary expenses, for attending a course on "intimate relationships".

Councillor Adrian Smith, Lib Dem Agent in the Bosworth and Hinckley constituency told the Reg: "If true, then it is clear that he has not learned his lesson from the last election – for the County Council - when he was accused of misusing photos.

"The fact that he was not very careful in respect of photos taken at a school is of concern, whilst his failure to take notice of parents’ complaints is disgraceful.

"This suggests he has not learned his lesson and probably never will."

A County Council spokesperson said: "We are investigating how it came about that the pictures were taken. There are clear rules governing the use of photographs and the school has been in touch with Mr Tredinnick's office about this following advice from the local authority." ®

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