Police questioned an amateur photographer under anti-terrorist legislation and later arrested him, claiming pictures he was taking in a Lancashire town were “suspicious” and constituted “antisocial behaviour“.
Footage recorded on a video camera by Bob Patefield, a former paramedic, shows how police approached him and a fellow photography enthusiast in Accrington town centre. They were told they were being questioned under the Terrorism Act…
He and his friend were taking photographs of Christmas festivities on 19 December, after attending a photography exhibition. The last images on his camera before he was stopped show a picture of a Santa Claus, people in fancy dress and a pipe band marching through the town.
He turned on his video camera the moment he was approached by a police community support officer (PCSO). In the footage, she said: “Because of the Terrorism Act and everything in the country, we need to get everyone’s details who is taking pictures of the town.”
She replied: “I’m an officer of the law, and I’m requiring you, because I believe your behaviour to be of a suspicious nature, and of possibly antisocial [nature] … I can take your details just to ascertain that everything is OK.”
Patefield and his friend maintained that they did not want to disclose their details. They were stopped a third and final time when returning to their car. This time the officer was accompanied by an acting sergeant. “Under law, fine, we can ask for your details – we’ve got no powers,” he said. “However, due to the fact that we believe you were involved in antisocial behaviour, ie taking photographs … then we do have a power under [the Police Reform Act] to ask for your name and address, and for you to provide it. If you don’t, then you may be arrested…”
Patefield was arrested for refusing to give his details, while his friend, who gave in, walked free. Patefield was held for eight hours and released without charge.
Yeah, yeah. I know. Discretion is the better part of valor.
But, sometimes you have to stand up and be counted for the freedom we’re supposed to be fighting all over the world to protect. Even if some petty pop-up snoop has the authority to shut you down. UK or US? It’s all the same.