'Teapot tape' saga dropped

Last updated 17:24 26/03/2012
MARCUS WILD

Police will not lay charges over the "teapot tape" saga and say freelance cameraman Bradley Ambrose has received a warning.

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The freelance cameraman at the centre of the "teapot tape" saga says his reputation has taken a nosedive.

Police announced today they would not lay charges against Bradley Ambrose after a long-running investigation.

Prime Minister John Key had complained about Ambrose recording a conversation between him and ACT MP John Banks on the campaign trail in 2011.

Ambrose said he has faced deadly cyclones in his job, but nothing more overwhelming as battling the media storm created by the teapot tapes.

"I know what I did wasn't criminal. I feel happy in the fact I would never have been found guilty. But saying that, the pressure and stress of it has been huge."

Ambrose's work dropped off and his reputation took a battering, especially when John Key labelled him as using ''News of the World-style tactics" by planting a recording on the table.

"It was purely an accident, but people started judging on how they saw it and that was the worst part," Ambrose said.

"It took years to build up my reputation as a photographer and to have it being slammed - it took a nosedive."

Ambrose said he felt relief at today's decision, but also anger that the investigation has taken so long.

"There are real criminals out there and real crimes, but police have put time, money resources into this when it could have been dealt with on day one."

If he could go back to that day in the cafe, Ambrose said he would have someone help him make the video.

"I don't believe I was reckless at all, but I may have been slightly careless and out of my depth. I was by myself. If I ever did that again I would get someone else to do the audio."

Ambrose's lawyer Ron Mansfield said the decision drew an end to the teapot saga, which had taken a personal toll on his client.

"[Ambrose] was confident this would be the decision, but he's obviously relieved the decision has been made," he said.

"For a while there he wasn't able to work. It wasn't sensible for him to work given what was alleged. Thankfully he is back at work now and enjoying being behind the camera not in front of it."

Mansfield said he strongly believed no criminal offence had been committed by Ambrose.

Although reluctant to be drawn on the reasons behind the lengthy investigation, he said Key's involvement had an effect.

"No doubt because of the Prime Minister's involvement they were careful to make sure it was a thorough investigation."

APOLOGY LETTER PART OF DECISION

A letter of regret had been forwarded to Key and John Banks.

Key said he welcomed Ambrose's letter and believed there was now no need for the prosecution to continue.

While he only received a warning, Ambrose's actions were illegal, Assistant Police Commissioner Malcolm Burgess said.

Future occurrences were likely to be prosecuted.

"We were satisfied on this occasion that there was [prima facie evidence].

But police decided there was not sufficient public interest in the matter going to court, he said.

"I reached the view that a prosecution was not required in this instance."

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In the view of police investigators, the recording was "most likely" on purpose, but at the least "reckless".

The letter to Key and Banks from Ambrose was "one of the factors that we took into account" and his lack of a criminal record was another.

Burgess said he would still advise media organisations not to play the tape.

Asked why the inquiry took so long, Burgess said it took time to talk to those involved, particularly members of public who were in the cafe.

Police had focused on Ambrose's action and not publication of the tape online earlier this year, he added.

Key said he welcomed the police decision and also welcomed Ambrose's "letter of regret".

"I note that the police statement today contains the comment that, while Mr Ambrose has been issued a warning, the police are clear that his actions were unlawful.

"As the complainant in this matter, my views were sought by the Crown Solicitor on whether I thought Mr Ambrose should be prosecuted. In light of Mr Ambrose's letter of regret, I indicated that I did not believe a prosecution was now necessary.

"I repeatedly said at the time that I was concentrated on the issues that matter to the New Zealand public, and that the secret recording wasn't one of those issues.  That remains the case.

"The decision announced by the police today, and Mr Ambrose's letter, allow all concerned to move on from the situation."

THE APOLOGY

In his letter Ambrose stated:

"As you are aware I attended your media meeting at the Urban Caf6, Newmarket. I was paid a small fixed fee to film the event for the Herald Online News, Webb Page. I was working alone on this occasion.

"My camera radio microphone was left on your cafe table. It had been placed there by me in a rush to pick up audio while you were speaking to the media. I had not expected this and was not prepared for it.

"I was having difficulty getting good footage due to the media scrum around you. So I moved off and away from the table area to try and get some workable footage from a different vantage point. In doing so I left the microphone on the table. My primary concern was to get film footage.

"When I later realised that I had left the microphone behind I returned to uplift it. I spoke to your staff who acknowledged they had taken possession of it, that it would not be returned and would be referred to the police. I did not realise at that time what the concern was and or why. I had no intention of secretly recording any conversation.

"Later that day when the existence of the recording became public I was requested to pass on what I had recorded. I accept that I did so without thinking properly about the effect this would have. I regret this decision.

"As stated I do regret passing this audio on to the Herald on Sunday due to the effects that this had had on those involved including yourself. Contrary to what has been said by some people, this was not intentional, nor was it a

"News of the World tactic". There was no money offered for the recording by the Herald on Sunday nor did they or any other outlet pay for it.

"This whole event has been blown out of proportion by a number of people and I would like to put it behind me.

"I just want to get back to work and not be known as someone alleged to have dubious ethics.

"This has been hard on me and my family. I trust that you are prepared to accept and appreciate my regret for how this matter has unfolded and escalated for us all. If I knew then what I know now, I would have deleted the tape at the first opportunity and not provided it to any other third party. I have become much wiser and more protective of my reputation as a result of this event and what has transpired.

"Accordingly I trust that you find this letter as a genuine statement of regret."

- Fairfax Media

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