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Paul Lewis, The Guardian
February 21, 2010
Man held in police station for eight hours after taking pictures of Christmas celebrations in Accrington
Police questioned an amateur photographer under anti-terrorist legislation and later arrested him, claiming pictures he was taking in a Lancashire town were “suspicious” and constituted “antisocial behaviour”.
Footage recorded on a video camera by Bob Patefield, a former paramedic, shows how police approached him and a fellow photography enthusiast in Accrington town centre. They were told they were being questioned under the Terrorism Act.
Senior police officers last year promised to scale back the use of anti-terrorist legislation such as Section 44 of the act, which deals with photographers, after a series of high-profile cases in which photographers said they had been harassed by police for taking innocuous images in the street.
Patefield and his friend declined to give their details, as they are entitled to under the act. The police then appeared to change tack, saying the way the men were taking images constituted “antisocial behaviour”. Patefield, who is in his 40s, was stopped three times before finally being arrested.
He and his friend were taking photographs of Christmas festivities on 19 December, after attending a photography exhibition. The last images on his camera before he was stopped show a picture of a Santa Claus, people in fancy dress and a pipe band marching through the town.
He turned on his video camera the moment he was approached by a police community support officer (PCSO). In the footage, she said: “Because of the Terrorism Act and everything in the country, we need to get everyone’s details who is taking pictures of the town.”
Patefield declined to give his details and, after asking if he was free to go, walked away. However the PCSO and a police officer stopped the men in another part of the town. This time, the police officer repeatedly asked him to stop filming her and said his photography was “suspicious” and “possibly antisocial”.
Patefield asked if the officer had any “reasonable, articulable suspicion” to justify him giving his details.
She replied: “I believe your behaviour was quite suspicious in the manner in which you were taking photographs in the town centre … I’m suspicious in why you were taking those pictures.
“I’m an officer of the law, and I’m requiring you, because I believe your behaviour to be of a suspicious nature, and of possibly antisocial [nature] … I can take your details just to ascertain that everything is OK.”
Patefield and his friend maintained that they did not want to disclose their details. They were stopped a third and final time when returning to their car. This time the officer was accompanied by an acting sergeant. “Under law, fine, we can ask for your details — we’ve got no powers,” he said. “However, due to the fact that we believe you were involved in antisocial behaviour, ie taking photographs … then we do have a power under [the Police Reform Act] to ask for your name and address, and for you to provide it. If you don’t, then you may be arrested.”
There is a section of that act that compels a member of the public to give their details if a police officer suspects them of antisocial activity.
The sergeant also alluded to complaints from the public and, turning to Patefield, added: “I’m led to believe you’ve got a bit of insight into the law. Do you work in the field?”
Patefield was arrested for refusing to give his details, while his friend, who gave in, walked free. Patefield was held for eight hours and released without charge.
In a statement, Lancashire police said they and members of the public were “concerned about the way in which [Patefield] was using his camera”. It said police felt they had “no choice” but to arrest him because he was refusing to co-operate.
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