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Amateur photographer arrested in Accrington for taking pictures in a funny way

Incoming from Rob Fisher, to whom thanks (and oh look, I get a mention in Rob’s latest posting), alerting me to this.

This is worth a look. The chap handles himself very well.

Indeed. His name is Bob Patefield. It comes across rather strongly that his real crime is not “being anti-social”, but telling the first semi-police-officer, a “Police Community Support Officer”, very politely, that he wasn’t prepared to give his personal details, because he didn’t believe that the semi-police-officer had the right to demand such details. That semi-police-officer then told a real police officer about this act of defiance, and the real police officer then moved in, inventing the claim that the photographer was taking pictures in an anti-social manner.

He was held in custody for eight hours, and then released without charge.

What a difference an internet makes. Not just in spreading the news of such harassment, but in rewarding those who resist it with a bit of glamour and attention and praise, from the likes of us. And punishing the police for such behaviour in an equal and opposite way.

The bottom line of all this, I believe, is that none of us actually believes that the way to stop terrorists, any terrorists, is to stop people taking photos of buildings. There are just too many people who take such pictures for entirely innocent reasons for such harassment to make any sense. Contrariwise, have terrorists ever crept about the scene of their subsequent crime, taking snaps? If so, I sure we would now be being told about it relentlessly. I like to take pictures of tourists taking pictures in the centre of London, and they constantly take pictures of buildings that are surely a lot more likely to be attacked by terrorists than is Accrington town centre. Like: the Houses of Parliament. The police never seem to bother them.

Maybe the police want to establish a track record having harassed lots of people who they have no reason to suspect of being terrorists, so that when they really do suspect someone of being a terrorist, who is also taking photos, and they ask him who he is, they can avoid accusations of racism, Islamophobia, etc. But if they have reasons for such suspicions, why all this kerfuffle when they haven’t? These PCSO people in Accrington should perhaps be told about this.

Maybe the truth of this is that these PCSOs are simply picking fights with people, in order to prove that they are doing something other than just wandering about rather aimlessly and not really earning whatever they are paid. Maybe it’s that simple.

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17 comments to Amateur photographer arrested in Accrington for taking pictures in a funny way

  • Kim du Toit

    “Maybe the truth of this is that these PCSOs are simply picking fights with people, in order to prove that they are doing something other than just wandering about rather aimlessly and not really earning whatever they are paid.”

    Nope. They’re throwing their weight around and harassing people because they can. Never underestimate the power of office to create a bully.

  • 07:35: “I consider myself a very law-abiding man…”

    For me, that is no longer a respectable position in the UK; even the police themselves have great difficulty knowing the details of particular areas of the law (though not necessarily how to apply it – just arrest anyone who looks a bit “dodgy”) and, as Mr Patefield says himself, the rights of the individual against the State are becoming increasingly narrow in the UK – to abide by that is to tolerate that which will not tolerate you. Perhaps he could have said something like “I consider myself a very rights-respecting man.”

    But:

    07:49: “… and I knew that I just couldn’t give me details because I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I did…”

    Good! I’ll applaud that Mr Patefield.

  • Brad

    What was the anti-social behavior the filming or refusing to give your name and address? Or causing a “distburbance” for other people being stopped and questioned? It seems tantamount to – give us your name and address and if you don’t THAT is anti-social behavior which gives them the authority to as for your name and address.

    Though it does seem that the individual involved knew quite a bit about the whole process which has me wondering if there was some “baiting” that took place so as to be commandeered. Not that it makes that much difference, but I would like to have an idea just how innocent he was acting or not acting as the clip conveniently picks up just as he is being questioned. Just a matter of keeping the record perfectly balanced.

    But most importantly that first ersatz cop was pretty cute IMO.

  • David Gillies

    I hope he sues for wrongful arrest and unlawful imprisonment. I’m nipping over to the UK in a bit and I’ll make sure to be snapping pics in the town centre. If any plastic tries it on he’ll be told to hop it (politely of course). I doubt they will. The coppers where I grew up make the dozy bunch in Hot Fuzz look like cast of Miami Vice. And while there’s no doubt a few enthusiasts of Mohammedanism in the area, I can’t say I’ve ever actually seen them.

  • @brad: “Though it does seem that the individual involved knew quite a bit about the whole process which has me wondering if there was some “baiting” that took place so as to be commandeered.”

    Don’t you find it disturbing that the fact that someone actually knows their rights (and rights which have been very well publicised all over there place) is something which causes you to be suspicious of them – with a tiny hint of implication that by sticking up for his rights he was asking for it?

  • The reason he knew his rights was that this isn’t an isolated incident. There have been many cases of photographers harassed for taking photographs of public places, and the internet being what it is, quite a few of them have been comparing notes, and quietly organising.

    Just do a search for “photographer arrested”.

    This one was particularly funny.
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/07/15/tall_photographers/

  • I’ve made this comment before on other blogs, perhaps I need to write something up myself. Anyway:

    If PCSO’s and regular constables really believe that the photographers really are potential what are they doing approaching them? Do they think a terrorist will put their hands up and say “its a fair cop, you got me bang to rights”? Any terrorist will soon dispose of them.

    If PCSO’s, or beat coppers, really think someone is suspect they should be calling MI5 or Special Branch at least. I suspect then they would be told not be stupid.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    So why did you become a police officer? Obvious career path for the schoolyard bully with two “O” levels and a budgerigar, right?
    Come the revolution, the rank-and-file Plods will get bricked to death while the senior officers escape by helicopter.

  • Amalia

    Otherthan the gross abuses of basic British rights, what strikes me is the role of the new Labour spotter girl in the mess. She is undeputized and without any power of arrest, but she complains and puts her superiors in a nasty mess–either ignore her and risk losing her as an effective instrument of the police force or follow her whim. It appears at least to me that New Labour’s inclusion of these non-police officers are making the situation worse. They cost 19k a year, seem conscious of their risible status and touchy.

    Why don’t yall find out who these people are and post their identities on the internets? If they detain photographers on the purported statements of bystanders and are later released without charge under the auspicies of an anti-terrorism statute (which one hopes does not contain any discretionary language), aren’t these officers acting extra legem and outside of the ambit of statutes protecting the identity and name of the police officers involved?

  • Vinegar Joe

    Come the revolution, the rank-and-file Plods will get bricked to death while the senior officers escape by helicopter.

    Somehow, I doubt that. Solzhenitsyn said that when the Bolsheviks took over, they didn’t even need to change the prison guards. I imagine the police will simple change some of their insignia and continue to happily beat the f*ck out of anyone who stands up to them……..all in the name of upholding the Law of course.

  • Andrew Duffin

    Talking of Solzhenytsin, it gives me the creeps to notice that the law that forbids us to photograph them is Section 58 of one of NuLab’s endless tinkering Acts.

    Section 58

    (Shivers)

  • Laird

    Sorry, but the title of this post always makes me think of John Cleese!

  • Snag

    If ignorance of the law is no defence, then surely knowledge of the law can’t be held against you either.

  • Gladys

    Laird, are you not thinking of Rowan Atkinson? He played a policeman who arrested people “for looking at him in a funny way”.

  • The bottom line is that if you refuse any police request for any reason, whether you have a right to or not, they will eventually make up a reason to ruin your day because being refused wounds their egos.

    The sort of person who would want to become a police officers are the sort of people you would avoid at all costs if you could.

  • Richard

    Well the profile of a Police Officier is a School Bully, hopefully Theresa May will sort those thugs and ensure that they realise that at the end of the day they are Public Servants, which they should not forget.

  • pcso

    i have a good relationship with the local police and pcso`s

    they even ask me to send photos of them. i treet tehm with respect and get it back.

    Cheers steve