Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Arrested for being tall

Kent Police set a new legal precedent last week, as they arrested a photographer on the unusual grounds of "being too tall".

This follows a year of increasingly unhappy incidents, in which continued reassurances from on high appear to have had little impact on how Police Forces deal with photographers – and reinforces a growing concern that the breakdown in trust and cooperation with the Police warned of in respect of demonstrations could soon transfer to photography too.

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.

Turner claims he was handcuffed, held in a police van for around 20 minutes, and forced to provide ID before they would release him. He was then searched in public by plain clothes officers who failed to provide any ID before they did so.

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.
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.

At the heart of the present controversy is the question of when behaviour becomes suspicious. 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.
In the case reported above, a spokesman for Chatham Police was prepared to confirm only the arrest and de-arrest, and that it was in respect of suspicious conduct under the Terrorism Act 2000. He added that Kent Police have voluntarily referred the complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

On the issues of what a citizen may lawfully do in the High St – whether ID must be supplied on demand, and whether photographing a police officer, or even being too tall, was grounds for arrest – neither Chatham nor Kent would provide any further comment. Kent police appeared especially unhappy at providing the public with any guidance as to what constituted an offence.
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. This raises the final concern that continued failure by the police to address this issue and to ensure that their officers are interacting lawfully with the public is likely to lead to a breakdown in relations.

Following the G20 earlier this year, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary issued a report (pdf) warning that unless police responded to public concerns, public support for the policing of demonstrations was likely to break down. Comedian Mark Thomas has already gained headlines for his campaign against unnecessary police stops, with its slogan: "If the police choose to waste my time, I will certainly waste theirs."

More seriously, lawyer Anna Mazzola observed in last week’s Guardian: "If the police truly want to convince journalists that they are committed to allowing freedom of expression and to enabling members of the press to do their jobs, then they should engage with these issues rather than issuing guidance which is likely to hamper them."

Kent police has supplied us with the following statement, giving its take on the incident:
Assistant Chief Constable Allyn Thomas said: "Our officers are extremely vigilant and their primary concern is always the safety of the public.

"At the time of this incident, a police officer responded to a report concerning a man who was taking photographs of buildings and people in Chatham town centre. When challenged by the police officer the man refused to give any personal details which it was thought was suspicious.
"As a result, he was arrested and asked to wait in a police vehicle while his details were checked. He was released a short time later after these details had been properly verified, and no further action has been taken.

"A formal complaint has subsequently be made in relation to this incident which has been recorded and an investigation has commenced."


Man in the Street said...

A coordinated "Click the Plod" campaign needs setting up. Flash camera mobs descend, splitting up in pairs and taking as many pictures of plod, hi-viz security apparatchik cunts, traffic wardens and others as possible. Publish on blog.

Possible venues:
Canary Wharf
City of London
London City Airport
Oxford Street
BBC (Wood Lane and White City)

(only listed London as that's where I live)

Rich B said...

There you have it. The police think they are entitled to demand that ANYONE give their name and address for ANY reason. Failure to do so is "suspicious". A police officer is not entitled to demand your details if there is no reason to ask for them. This practice is essentially "papers please" and if you don't comply you are arrested. How, in practice, is this different from demanding an ID card and arresting you for not producing it? The police act routinely outside of their powers and do so as a matter of practice and policy. The police "service" in this country is a pale shadow of what it used to be. At street level the culture is one of bullying "in your face" interventionism. If you are a clearly dishonest and fraudulent MP they are not interested. If you are a citizen going about your lawful business they harass and interfere at every turn. Disgraceful.

Wesley Groves said...

Continuing the cunt theme. I took photographs of plod at an Amnesty event (Guantanamo) but obviously I'm not tall enough to be arrested. I noticed with WPCs (Sussex, Deborah Savage) that they go for the hardware first. I was half blinded in one eye. After my hands were cuffed behind my back. Sgt Edney lost the evidence of my injuries. Given the record of deaths in custody (UK is highest in Europe, good to know Britain leads the field) I suggest a course in Ju-Jitsu to at least Blue Belt.

Anonymous said...

Plod=pissup/brewery. I thought they were checked for at least a certain level of intelligence before being issued with a warrent card? Obviously not. Thick, bullying & violent now seems to be the job description.

Stop Common Purpose said...

I'm 6'4" tall so had better turn myself in now for being "threatening".

caesars wife said...

equality commison will no doubt determine short people should be offered the legs of tall people

Chalcedon said...

If that silly cow felt intimidated by a bloke 5 foot 11 and 12 stone she should not be in the police. They used to have a size requirement once. These days any short arsed weakling can become a police officer.

I do hope he is going to sue. This arresting ordinary folk for photography must be challenged in court.

Anonymous said...

certain level of intelligence before being issued with a warrent card?
They are tested, whats 3+3? answer 7 start Monday, being big lazy and thick is a must it also helps if your perents were not married.

Rab C. Nesbitt said...

Welcome to police state Britain.

Anonymous said...

The State is doing it's best to turn us into TERRORISTS (freedom fighters, actually).
However Brits are such chickens that it's a losing battle. Maybe if they harass some foreigners they'll produce some.

Old Holborn said...

I'm amazed.

Just tell them to fuck off. I do all the time. Never been arrested. They have no right to your name and address

(PS carry no ID and no mobile phone. They HATE it)

Anonymous said...

OH, I guess it depends upon where you are living. the Lancashire Constabulary runs operations in my kneck of the woods and I think "fuck off" would get me beaten up, then arrested.

Anonymous said...


Our friend and core member, Alex, known online as Monaxle, was arrested under section 44 of the Terrorism Act of 2000 this week. His blog about this, and an overwhelming and supportive public response from those who see this as an outrageous abuse of power can be seen by clicking on the link above.

Alex has no more to say on the subject. Please do not approach him for interviews. He has said all that he wishes to say in his blog, which stands as a definitive statement.

Medway Eyes is an artists collective with dozens of contributors and hundreds of followers. On Saturday August 15th we will be photographing en masse in Chatham town centre in a peaceful, unobtrusive, articulate protest that will aim to inform on the importance of social documentary photography, the rights of photographers and individuals, the impact of section 44 on civil liberty and the responsibility and accountability that accompanies the ceding of unprecedented powers to public servants.

Please watch this space for updates. You are welcome to join our mailing list by simply sending an email to with "44" as the title, and we will keep you informed of developments.

Our next statement will be issued at the end of July.

Anonymous said...

>I thought they were checked for at least a certain level of intelligence before being issued with a warrent card?

"P"CSOs don't have warrant cards, since they're just parkies with radios that they can use to scream for a grown up to come and rescue them.

WPCs only need to have a twat to make it through selection. Having a brain behind the regulation Chelsea facelift is strictly optional.

OH has it right. Round about the time of Dixon of Dock Green, coppers were deferential to the employed and educated, and cracked down on the scum. Now it's t'other way round, since it's easier to bully someone into taking a Caution if they've got something to lose, and are daft enough to say anything other than "No comment" or "I'll find out where you live and burn your fucking house down."

Just sneer, scoff and threaten them and they'll soon realise that they're in the presence of their betters, and knuckle under.

Anonymous said...

No Photos, no evidence of the police behaving illegally.

especially when they kill innocent people!

Simple innit!

hands up Labour supporters, you are the new Nazis!

David G said...

Look, while I agree with the sentiment expressed, if you are going to lift an article from The Register word-for-word, could you at least do the decent think and acknowledge the source old boy ?

Beth the slag said...

I to was at the Amnesty event (Guantanamo) that Wesley Groves say he was at but I have no recollection of him being or half blinded in one eye by the small lady dressed as a police woman and being arrested. On the contrary he was so pissed he started trying to chat up another male protestor thinking he was also a friend of Dorothy (wrong as it happens) who in turn responded responded by poking him in the eye with his finger and telling him to fuck-off. Wesley's uncontrolled screaming and sobbing as he lay on the ground caused the little PCSO lady to come over to see what all the fuss was about and she even gave him her packet of tissues to dry his tears and a winegum. I have no idea why he is now saying he was arrested and assaulted my the nice police lady who helped him, but he does seem to have a such a vivid imagination where the police are concerned.

Proud to be Gay said...

Beth the Slag is correct in how she describes the incident, however she has left out the fact that Wesley was wearing a large soiled nappy and had a dummy in his mouth at the time. As he is only just five feet tall he looks like a large overweight toddler when so dressed. He has told me that he dresses like this in the hope that the fuzz will ignore him when he shouts rude things at them like, "You smell like bacon". Hope this helps.

Shanghai7 said...

Being ex-job myself I can tell you that most coppers can't write or recite their two times table. These days most graduates can't either so what is the difference? As for recruiting our ethnic friends, I remember that sticker in the 1970'swith a gorilla in a police helmet. We had one stuck on the station's notice board for years!
Like 99.9 percent of officers I wasn't prejudiced in anyway but you had to laugh.

PS O'Thief said...

Yes I clearly remember the incident in which Wesley Groves claimed he was attacked and robbed by my heroic comrades in blue my lud.
On the day in question I was proceeding in a northerly direction towards the said place where the small demonstration was taking place, I had about my person two large carrier bags full of assorted donuts for the troops. My attention was drawn to what I first took to be an angry and particularly ugly dwarf, who was wearing what appeared to be a large soiled nappy and holding a dummy between his teeth. This odd individual my lud is the same pathetic wretch that is sitting in the dock today.
Having handed the donuts to Inspector Kicking QPM, I went immediately and gave assistance to PCSO Blunket who was attempting to dry the defendants tears and slipping him a wine gum. I asked the defendant why he was crying and making such a fuss? He replied, "Nobody takes me seriously."
I pointed out the fact that it was probably because he looked so bleedin stupid, and at this point he attempted to scratch and bite me.
Told he was being arrested for assault on police and section 5 of the Pulic Order act and cautioned he replied. "Will you let me off if I give you information?"
He was then placed in the back of a van my lud and conveyed to the Station where he was later charged and further cautioned at 1823hrs, to which he replied. "Who has nicked my butt plug?" I asked him if he was referring to the dummy he had in his mouth at the time of his arrest? To which he replied "To fucking right Sherlock." Following this statement my lud, he appear to stumble and smash his ugly face on the desk. He was then taken to hospital. Later I was informed he had made an official complaint concerning the alleged theft of his butt plug my lud.

Ron Broxted said...

To Belfast and the Amnesty conference. Only six people turned up which was disappointing especially when I found out three of them thought the hall had been hired for a jumble sale. Time for a Bill of rights me thinks If so which ones go in? Free beer vouchers for the long term unemployed idle bastards like me. Or end internment without trial for zoo animals, extrajudicial killings, I all in favour of that, DNA retention that's a tricky one as the bastards already have mine on file, verifiable. Is it time for direct action, should we send the buggers home? Power 2010 have many excellent ideas, cheap lecky for the unemployed and students, probably the same thing. All our "rights" seem to disappear due to "terrorism" but is that a valid reason? We then departed from the conference to hold a rather "Gay event" highlighting and its less than clean role in the Niger delta. Two other prize onanists and myself were then confronted by the PSNI "City Centre Beat" who come up to us at Castle Court shopping centre. "Where is your permit to protest Doris?" (Me) "This isn't a protest,it's just three gay friends camping it up". P.C Crown and Anchor "What is it?" (Voice from behind me) "Street theatre". Plod "It is an illegal assembly and your makeup looks awful, who does your hair, and those trousers, plus you are standing around". (Me) " Does my bum look big in these trousers constable?" Having got the message we wandered off towards City hall. Here I met and talk to a star of stage and screen, well the gay one that is. We chat about how he manages to keep it up when rogering upwards of five twinks at a time. "Aren't you put off by the lights and camera's, how do you keep it up I ask excitedly? Then I start singing my ditty "Do the Nigger shuffle, hear the social security money rustle" I then invent a new hit "It's much nicer up the arse." Catchy, and sung in Flanders and Swan style. After the demo ended (oops) I visited the continental market and said "Vitayu" to the nuns from St Elisabeths convent in Minsk who had a stall selling pictures of Catholic priests buggering young boys. It is a long journey for them each day I think to myself as I buy a selection of photographs. A day, a night. Uncle Ron says catch up with yall tomorrow.

Jack Strawrentboyuser said...

I see that the filthy little gay taig and police grass Wesley Groves is now calling himself K McEgan, what a prize cunt.

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