"While dictators rage and statesmen talk, all Europe dances — to The Lambeth Walk."

Monday, 13 July 2009

Kent Police Throwing Their Weight Around

Today I stumbled across a blog post by a photographer who is from Chatham, my home town.

He went into the town centre to photograph a local fly-over which is in the process of being demolished - and ended up being placed in handcuffs and held in a police van for twenty minutes due to the ongoing abuse of 'anti-terror' laws by overzealous police officers:

I went down to Chatham High Street today to take some pictures of the flyover being demolished (that’s another post to come) and to use up a film I’ve had in a camera for over a year. Doing so had some unexpected consequences…

This photo…

Suspect behaviour

Suspect behaviour

led to this photo…

Questions in the High Street

Questions in the High Street

which led to this form…



which led to this letter…

To the Professional Standards Department

RE: Complaint relating to the behaviour of police officer xxxxx, police officer xxxxx and PCSO xxxxx.

At around 11.45am on the 08/07/09 police Officer xxxxx placed me under arrest in Chatham High Street. Officer xxxxx stated I was being arrested under section 44 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2000 and read me my rights. As I was arrested I was handcuffed. I asked why she had arrested me. She stated because I had taken a photograph of her and that she considered this to be an unlawful obstruction. After a short time I was led up the High Street and detained in a police van for around 20 minutes. It is my view officer xxxxx had no reasonable grounds to arrest and detain me under section 44 of the Act. The arrest was made immediately after I photographed xxxxx whilst voluntarily waiting as she spoke to a colleague on the phone in relation to me being requested to stop by PCSO xxxxx and officer xxxxx’s subsequent involvement.

The relevant events leading to the arrest are as follows: I was initially stopped by two men in the High Street close to Snappy Snaps. The men did not identify themselves though stated that they worked for Medway Council. I saw a badge attached to one of the men’s waistband and saw the logo of Kent Police. The men asked me why I was taking pictures in the High Street. I told them photography was a hobby and explained what and who I had taken pictures of and why. The camera was an Olympus OM1 which is an analogue film camera so I was therefore unable to show them a preview of the pictures I had taken. The men asked me to provide them with details about my identity. I asked them under what authority they were making their request. They did not provide a clear answer to this question in that they failed to state the legal authority under which they were making their enquiries. I stated it was my belief that I was not legally obliged to provide them with any further information and was choosing not to do so. They said that if I did provide the details they requested then they would contact the police. I did not argue the point or move away. One of the men then used his phone as the other flagged down PCSO xxxxx who was walking down the High Street from the Rochester end. The same line of questioning and responses followed. We were then joined by officer xxxxx who again came from the Rochester end of the High Street. Once again the same line of questioning followed until such time I was arrested. At no time did I refuse to give an account for myself and my activities in the High Street.

After sitting in the police van for around 20 minutes the outer back doors were opened and I was spoken to through the locked inner cage by officers xxxxx and xxxxx, both of whom were in plain clothes and neither of which produced their warrant cards. They spoke about the threat of terrorism. They were keen to seek my agreement with regards to the views they expressed, both about the threat of terrorism and the suspicious nature of people with cameras and especially those who chose not to provide identifying details about themselves when requested to do so. I was asked if I would now provide details regarding my identity. I asked, taking into account I was now under arrest, handcuffed and detained, if I was obliged to do so. They stated that I was and said that if I did not I would be taken to the police station. I indicated I could not physically provide any proof of my identity whilst handcuffed and locked in the van. They let me out. I asked to be unhandcuffed. The request was refused. I informed officer xxxxx details of my identity were in my wallet which was in my inside jacket pocket. Officer xxxxx placed his hand inside my jacket pocket and removed my wallet upon which he opened it and could see my photo card driving license. He passed the wallet to one of his colleagues who took it away. Officer xxxxx then proceeded to search my pockets and pat me down. It is my assertion the refusal to remove the handcuffs was unjustified and perpetuated the use of unreasonable force. At no time had I made any physical resistance or attempts to move away whilst being questioned by any of the police officers, the PCSO or the two unidentified men claiming to work for Medway Council. I was not informed by officer xxxxx the object of his search nor the grounds or authorisation for it. It is my understanding that as officer xxxxx was in plain clothes he was also obliged to produce his warrant card prior to conducting his pat down and search of my pockets which he did not. Furthermore it is my understanding that as the search was in public the officer is only authorised to require me to take of an outer jacket, jacket and gloves. Officer xxxxx required me to take of my trainers and patted down the undersides of both feet.

For a further 5-10 minutes I stood in the street in full view of passers by handcuffed and accompanied and intermittently spoken to by officers xxxxx and xxxxx. Whilst sharing their views about the threat of terrorism officer xxxxx stated she had felt threatened by me when I took her picture. I cannot recall exactly what she said but I do recall her referring to my size and inferring she found it intimidating at the time (I am 5ft 11in and weigh about 12 stone). Presently officer xxxxx returned and released the handcuffs. Officer xxxxx stated he was satisfied with the results of checks which his colleague(s) had made. He put his hand out for me to shake, apologised for the inconvenience, stated that he hoped I understood given the ‘strange’ times we are in and left in an unmarked car with officer xxxxx.

Officer xxxxx then presented herself to me and asked if I had been informed that I had been dearrested; I stated that I had not at which point she proceeded to do so. She also offered a verbal apology and her hand for me to shake. I asked if I was free to go and continue to take pictures in the High Street, she informed me that I was; PCSO xxxxx added as long as you don’t take any pictures of us.


ProudGeordie said...

Vare are your papers! You vill comply mit our instruction! Ve haf vays of meking you tok!

DP111 said...

If this person was wearing some form of clothing that would readily identify him as follower of the RoP, he would never have been arrested.

It is now the official policy of this government, that Muslims, even if they are acting very suspiciously, or even in engagaging in anti-social behaviour, or petty crime, will not be arrested. To do so, according to the powers, would be to inflame Muslims to become terrorists.

Anonymous said...

After reading the narrative and Turners letter, one would have to conclude that this innocent photo taking exercise has been mishandled from the start.

And all because Turner had 'snapped' an officers photo!

At the very least, this man deserves a public apology but, will it be forthcoming?

Anonymous said...

That last comment should be Nemesis not anonymous!