Arrested for being tall?

Dismayed, but not surprised, that police are still arresting photographers for taking photos in public places – without reasonable suspicion that these are connected with terrorism or other illegal acts.

Last week Kent police arrested 5′ 11″ Alex Turner who had refused to show his ID after being challenged in Chatham High Street.

From The Register:

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.

See Alex Turner’s blog for photos and his copy of the Search record form issued by Kent Police.

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19 Comments

  • George Turner 16th Jul '09 - 1:38pm

    Im 6’4 and a Turner

    This story petrifies me.

  • Liberal Neil 16th Jul '09 - 1:48pm

    That is a heck of a lot of police and related staff hours dealing with someone acting 100% legally.

    Do our Police really have so much time on their hands that they can waste it in this way?

  • George Turner 16th Jul '09 - 2:08pm

    In all seriousness this is pretty sickening. Also I thought the whole point of the ID card debate was that it is not legal for the police or anyone to demand identity. We should all write a letter to the Kent Police expressing our disgust in the way he was treated

  • Glad I’m awful at photography, I’m 6’3″ and nearly 18 stone (and usually unshaven), the poor WPC would probably soil herself! Makes you wonder how she got in if seeing tall people scares her so much.

  • Would be nice to see a Lib Dem MP raise this at PMQs. Clegg attacked Brown for not putting words into action this week, and the fact that these incidents continue to occur despite Government assurances is a great example of that.

  • Helen Duffett 16th Jul '09 - 2:35pm

    The height police have got nothing on me.

    And it’s not as though I’ve got form for any other dodgy behaviour…

  • The whole thing is absolutely disgusting as is the certainty that the “independent” police complaints commission will decide that they acted perfectly correctly and that no-one will be disciplined. Our police force is utterly broken. Something serious needs to be done about it.

  • Antony Hook Antony Hook 16th Jul '09 - 3:51pm

    Searches under s. 44 (i.e not requiring reasonable grounds) have to be in area that an asst. chief constable has designated for the purpose on grounds it could be a terrorist target

    Who the hell, and why, was Chatham High Street so designated.

  • Martin Land 16th Jul '09 - 4:33pm

    My father, a policeman, always taught me that an officer had no right to ask me for identification unless he had reasonable grounds for thinking that I had committed an arrestable offense and had to state so if challenged. I suppose that has all gone out of the window in new Labour Britain.

  • I must remember to take my camera with me next time I go out, just in case I see a policeman.

    I wonder what would happen if the entire population were to go out taking pictures of policemen….

  • Now, here’s a thing. One of the young actors from the Harry Potter films has recently got himself in the news for admitting to growing cannabis.

    And how was he caught?

    The BBC says he took some photos of a police officer. The police officer objected and confiscated his camera. On the camera were found pictures of the cannabis plants.

    Here’s what the BBC has to say:

    “The court heard police found shots of the plants on Mr Waylett’s camera after he was arrested for taking a picture of officers as he and a friend drove past.

    [snip]

    The images found on the camera led police to search Mr Waylett’s mother’s home where they found the 10 cannabis plants.”

    More here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/8153908.stm

    Now admittedly there were some other factors to take into account like the knife and the drugs found in the car of the friend he was travelling with.

    But it still seems like evidence of the same problem, if not necessarily completely clear-cut.

    The Register, which reports tirelessly on this issue, claims that the Met police have been told to back off. Here’s a link to a recent piece from them:

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/07/09/metropolitan_police_photo/

    And readers might find this guide to photographers’ rights useful: http://www.sirimo.co.uk/2009/05/14/uk-photographers-rights-v2/

  • I wonder what would have happened to me I have no driving license and obviously do not walk around with my passport on me so I have no way of ‘proving my ID’. Would I have been arrested until I could prove my ID despite the fact there is no legal obligation for me to do so or would they have been forced to accept they had made a serious cock up and arrested someone going about their perfectly legal business?

  • Terry Gilbert 17th Jul '09 - 2:32pm

    Watch out Stephen (Tall)!

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