Due to the move of the blog to Wordpress posts from Jan 2012 onward will have commenting disabled (when I remember to do it)
Cheers - AE

Thursday, 16 July 2009

The Stasi of Chatham.

And some wonder why the British police have such a terrible rep when they're harassing arresting people for being tall and in possession of - gasp - a camera.
Kent Police set a new legal precedent last week, as they arrested a photographer on the unusual grounds of "being too tall".


According to his blog, our over-tall photographer Alex Turner was taking snaps in Chatham High St last Thursday, when he was approached by two unidentified men. They did not identify themselves, but demanded that he show them some ID and warned that if he failed to comply, they would summon police officers to deal with him.

This they did, and a PCSO and WPC quickly joined the fray. Turner took a photo of the pair, and was promptly arrested. It is unclear from his own account precisely what he was being arrested for. However, he does record that the WPC stated she had felt threatened by him when he took her picture, referring to his size - 5' 11" and about 12 stone - and implying that she found it intimidating.
5'11" and 12 stone? Okay, not a small man but not exactly a fucking giant either, though to me it just sounds like a bullshit excuse to nick a guy with a camera who doesn't feel the need to explain himself to the unidentified men who started the ball rolling.
Following his release, he further claims that the police confirmed he was at liberty to take photographs, so long as - according to the PCSO - he did not take any photographs of the police.
Arrogant cunt. I very much hope that an apocalyptically embarrassing and compromising photo of him appears on the internet and spreads like wildfire. I don't care whether it's a genuine photo of hilariously small genitalia or something, or an image lovingly created in Photoshop to make it look like he's deep throating farm animals - but whatever I hope that both his face and badge number are visible.

Again I think to myself thank fuck I left the UK. Thank fuck I don't have to see wannabee plastic cops* or even the genuine article who joined up for the power rather than a real desire to serve. Thank fuck I left a country that has genuinely made photographing police illegal, though some police at least have realized what a fucking PR minefield it's likely to turn out to be**.
This is just the latest in a long line of PR disasters that have dogged police forces over the last 12 months, with tourists, schoolboys and passers-by all subject to arrest for the heinous offence of pursuing their hobby. Each incident is followed by much police hand-wringing, and statements to the effect that these are one-offs: the fault of over-zealous individual officers.

The Home Office has issued numerous statements reaffirming the public’s right to take photographs. Last week, the Met issued its own guidelines, which may go some way to explaining why the Police so persistently get it wrong.
Not to mention that they've already been accused of omissions and being selective by media lawyers and the British Journal of Photography. Also pointed out in the Reg (my bold):
Advice we have received suggests that the police may arrest an individual under PACE s.1 or the Terrorism Act s.44 where they have reasonable suspicion that an illegal act is being carried out.

In other words, photography on its own is not suspicious behaviour: police suspicions need to be grounded in other evidence, and it is not reasonable to throw a blanket suspicion over the activities of all photographers.

Yet here is the Met guidance in respect of s.44: "Officers have the power to view digital images contained in mobile telephones or cameras... provided that the viewing is to determine whether the images... are of a kind, which could be used in connection with terrorism."

Not quite. The Met guidelines make no mention of reasonable suspicion: in effect, they duck the single issue that is at the heart of so much grief.

We asked the Met to explain this omission, but at time of writing, they have not come back to us.


However, as debate in parliament a couple of months back revealed, MPs on all sides of the House are beginning to notice a pattern: and the demand for police to act lawfully in respect of their policing of photography is growing. Even Home Office Under-Secretary Shahid Malik, who responded in this debate, was forced to concede that the events now being brought before Parliament were regrettable, and that counter-terror legislation was not intended to be used in this way.

Despite this, the message still does not appear to be getting through to police at the sharp end.
Criticism also comes from Amateur Photographer magazine, who also note that photographers can expect more of this from now on.
Anti-terror police have the legal right to view a photographer's digital images [under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000] but they have no power to delete or destroy them without a court order, says a photography rights lawyer.


Aimed at photographers and officers the Met's guidance states that officers have the right to seize and retain any article found during a search that they reasonably suspect is intended to be used in connection with terrorism.


Responding to the Met's photo advice, the NUJ tells its members: 'Whilst recognising the rights of photographers to take photos in public places, the guidance goes on to inaccurately say that, under Section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000, police can demand to see the images that have been taken. Under the section such a demand can only be made where the person is suspected of actually being a terrorist.'
Worth noting also that Amateur Photographer have written about the guy nicked in Chatham. The response they got from Kent Plod to the simple request to confirm which part of the Terrorism Act was used to arrest ALex Turner? The official version of fuck off:
'We can confirm that on Wednesday 8 July, at approximately 12.30pm, a man was arrested on Military Road, Chatham. After a short period of time the man was dearrested and no further action will be taken.'

Turner says the officer told him he was being arrested under 'Section 44' of the Terrorism Act.

However, police refused to confirm to AP which section of the Terrorism Act was used.

'This is the only information [we are] supplying for media enquiries,' the spokesman added.
When is it going to stop? When everyone who can get out leaves the country before they're arrested (and maybe de-arrested***) for some trivial or even non-existent offence? When there is no-one left but coppers, plastic plods, council inspectors, informants, ElfNSafety types and other state busybodies? Or when everyone is sufficiently sick of the whole sorry fucking lot that they'll actually demand change from the power crazed cunts running ruining the country or vote the bastards out and into the gutter in favour of some people who know what freedom actually involves?

Sadly I'm not hopeful and fear that it'll get a lot fucking worse before it gets even remotely better.

*Okay, I'm sure some, perhaps even a majority, joined for honest reasons. But for one thing they're not real police and I feel that if that's what they want to do then they should have applied to be a police constable in the fucking first place, and secondly there's little doubt that some are certainly cunts.
**I'm waiting for the first time some uniformed prick drunk on power nicks an American tourist who happens to look slightly too foreign for taking tourist photos of British bobbies at Buck House.
***"De-arrested"? A fucking weasel term if ever I heard one. What's wrong with 'released without charge'? And what fucking difference does it make when you should never have been arrested in the fucking first place? The deed is done and the victim has been arrested, and they will forever have the experience of having been arrested. You can un-handcuff 'em and let 'em go but the arrest remains, especially when there's a fucking record of it. You might as well say someone is "re-virgined" once they light up a post coital cigarette.


JuliaM said...

"...referring to his size - 5' 11" and about 12 stone - and implying that she found it intimidating."

Want to bet she was one of the teeny-tiny police we now have since they abolished the height restrictions? Especially for women?

I passed two in the high street the other day - I'm not tall, barely 5 3, but they were both shorter than me!

Angry Exile said...

Follow the link to blog of the photographer or to the Amateur Photographer article. Both have a photo of a someone who would once have been referred to as a little plonk and should now be more correctly described as a female constable of slightly compact proportions (face obscured on the AP article). Want to bet it was the same as the one intimidated by his 5'11" high 12 stone oppressive bulk? She should meet some Aussie Rules players... she'll think she's surrounded by fucking buildings wearing socks.

Related Posts with Thumbnails