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…
led to this photo…
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. At this point I walked away feeling upset, embarrassed and traumatised by the events.
I believe the way I was treated was unjustified and wholly disproportionate. I assert that officer xxxxx misused her powers of arrest and demonstrated a poor understanding of the law in relation to arrest, the use of force, the use of detention, photography in public places, obstruction and the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2000. Furthermore I assert that officer xxxxx is unsuitable to act as a police officer or at the very least requires further training if she is intimidated by a male of an unremarkable stature taking a single picture with a camera pointed in her direction. I assert that officer xxxxx failed to follow the correct procedures when conducting his search of me and perpetuated the use of unreasonable force by refusing to release me from handcuffs. I assert that PCSO xxxxx demonstrated an unacceptable attitude by making a veiled threat towards me in relation to my future activities as an amateur photographer. I seek for these matters to be fully investigated, the process and outcomes of which I request to be shared with me. With regards to redress I seek a written apology in relation to any shortfalls identified with regards to the involved officer’s conduct and consideration of compensation to be made to me for the upset, embarrassment and psychological trauma caused. I would also like Kent and Medway Police to liaise with Medway Council in order to identify the two unidentified men that initially stopped and questioned me. I seek for their conduct to also be fully investigated, the process and outcomes of which I request to be shared with me.
Cc – The independent monitor of the implementation of anti-terrorism legislation, Lord Carlile of Berriew QC, The House of Lords London SW1A 0AA.
I know a fair few people may say serves you right for a number of reasons. My reponse to that is it will serve you right when you wake up one day and realise you don’t live in a free country anymore. I’ve been stopped nearly a dozen time under section 44. Up until now I’ve always provided my details. Today I decided not to. Seems that when I choose to exercise my rights I get arrested, cuffed and detained for doing so. Yossarian would appreciate the logic in that.