A PHOTGRAPHER accused of trying to take pictures of two convicted sex offenders in Bradford and Keighley to make money has been acquitted.

Andrew Stone was found not guilty on charges of fraud and blackmail by a judge after prosecutors offered no evidence on the day he was due to stand trial, having denied the offences.

However, he was given an indefinite restraining order and criticised by the judge for his behaviour.

A court has previously heard how the 48-year-old was alleged to have posed as a parcel delivery man and went to the houses of sex offenders to take their photographs.

Judge Ian Pearson, recording not guilty verdicts, said the reluctance of the complainants to attend court or give evidence by video link was one of a number of reasons the prosecution had offered no evidence and said chances of conviction were slim.

Under the terms of the restraining order, Mr Stone cannot make direct or indirect contact with certain people or take or publish their photograph.

Mr Stone faced two charges of fraud offences in the Bradford district and a blackmail charge in the Portsmouth area.

The Bradford charges were alleged to have occurred on April 28, 2014, and the Portsmouth one between July 1, 2013 and January 1, 2014.

Previously, it was alleged a demand for money was made in the Portsmouth case, while in the other cases it was alleged Mr Stone was going to sell the photographs.

Judge Pearson told Portsmouth Crown Court today that punishment of sex offenders was for the courts.

“It’s right and proper that the public is protected from sex offenders,” he added.

“It’s also right and proper that all offenders including sex offenders have the right to be rehabilitated, providing the public isn’t put at risk.”

Despite Mr Stone’s acquittal, Judge Pearson refused his application for £600 costs, saying “his behaviour is such that in my view it offends against principles of fairness and justice” and described his behaviour as “questionable”, “reprehensible” and “far from blameless”.

“His behaviour in attempting to obtain photographs in some cases was devious,” he added.

Judge Pearson also said he was not convinced that Mr Stone, of Adelaide Road, St Denys, Southampton, was motivated solely by reasons of public good.

However, Mr Stone, who gave evidence in a hearing over costs, said he did not do what he did for financial gain and said he wanted to stop other children suffering in the way that he claimed he had suffered as a child.

Mark Florida-James, defending Mr Stone - who has produced work for The Guardian, News of the World and Daily Telegraph - said he had always been careful in his career to act within the rules.

Mr Stone now faces further charges of harassment before magistrates in Plymouth in April.

After the case, Mr Stone said: “I’m happy it’s all over and I stand by what I have always said.

“This is about my children, your children and our children.”