Fear Force – Keeping citizens safe from themselves

A couple of days ago Kevin Geraghty-Shewan took his 4-year old son to the supermarket in Sunderland. At the entrance to the store was a children’s train ride and the boy jumped on board to have his picture taken.

And this is where the forces of law and order stepped in.

A vigilant security guard spotted this suspicious behaviour, approached Mr Geraghty-Shewan and told him to delete the photo. He was told…

You can’t take pictures here

When Mr Geraghty-Shewan explained the boy was his son the guard explained…

You can’t prove that. For all I know you could be a paedophile

Warning - NSFW locomotive image

Now, this isn’t the first story that has emerged from the UK about the almost arbitrary rulings on where and when citizens are allowed to take photographs in public places. This is mainly due to the other Great Modern Fear, that of terrorism.

Section 44 of the UK Terrorism Act 2000 states…

Officers have the power to view digital images contained in mobile telephones or cameras carried by a person searched under S44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, provided that the viewing is to determine whether the images contained in the camera or mobile telephone are of a kind, which could be used in connection with terrorism

Given this justification, hundreds of photographers have been stopped by the police, who are doing one of two things. They are either using their powers under the Act as an excuse to harass innocent citizens or they genuinely believe their actions are keeping the streets safe.

I find the former of those fantastically annoying. To get hassled whilst taking photos because it is your hobby, passion or job would be utterly dementing.

But the latter I find horrifying. And, looking back at Mr Geraghty-Shewan’s experience in Sunderland, I’m not entirely sure this wasn’t what occured.

Having shrugged off the attentions of the security guard he shortly found himself stopped by a policeman, who had been alerted by the store.

They took my details and said they had the right to remove the picture from my phone. I got annoyed and things got heated, then he threatened me with arrest for breach of the peace.

Ben thought I was in trouble because he had sat on the ride and we didn’t put the money in.

Good job that incriminating nugget of information slipped their notice, it would have been off to the nick with Dad and the kid would have been in a foster home before you could say Thomas the Tank Engine.

In this case he was let off with a warning… but what was he even warned for? If the security guard and the policeman had actually thought he was a paedophile shouldn’t there have been some sort of arrest?

No. Because what they wanted him to do was delete the photograph… that’s all. So we can only assume that, should you wish to let your recently kidnapped 4 year old victim play on a supermarket ride, just make sure you don’t photograph him. And if you do, delete the photo and wander off with a warning.

I can just picture the scene back at the police station. It plays out like a Monty Python sketch

Superintendant – Ah, P.C. Wilkins. Back from patrol I see. Anything to report?

P.C. Wilkins – Another of those paedophiles taking photos, Sir.

Superintendant – Dear, dear. And what did you do?

P.C. Wilkins – Got him to delete the photos, Sir. Sent him and the boy on their way…

Superintendant – Good work Wilkins. What I couldn’t do with more men like you.

P.C. Wilkins = Yes Sir. Thank you Sir.

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