kind of like an update

To follow on from this post

Though Kent Police have not put anything in writing to me they have written to Amateur Photographer Magazine and the British Journal of Photography.  Here’s a copy of the letter. The text is very guarded carefully considered.

Dear Editor

I write in regards to your article concerning the arrest of amateur photographer Alex Turner.

The police have a number of powers that they are able to use in relation to stop and search which have to be assessed according to the type of incident being dealt with. With regard to this specific incident there was a need to establish the identity of the man in question, whose behaviour had caused concern and who, when asked, had refused to provide his details. Once officers had established that no offences had been committed Mr Turner was allowed on his way.

However following a complaint made by Mr Turner, the circumstances of this incident were voluntarily referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, who agreed that Kent Police’s Professional Standards department should investigate.

We are in contact with Mr Turner and will keep him updated as to the findings of the investigation.

However I wish to make absolutely clear that my officers were placed in a situation where I truly believe the vast majority of the public would expect them to find out what the circumstances were, not least when Mr Turner’s behaviour had generated suspicion with local council employees and he had refused to reveal his identity.

Police in Medway are here to ensure everyone’s safety and on occasions we have to ask members of the public to provide personal details and explain their actions, particularly when we have reports of them acting suspiciously and they refuse to say who they are.

Whilst policing powers always have to be applied professionally and proportionately, police officers and Police Community Support Officers have a responsibility to use their powers to identify who they are talking to and clarify if their behaviour is unlawful or not.

I do note that recorded crime in Medway has fallen again. A lot of the reason for this is we stop and identify people who are reported as acting suspiciously. Sir Robert Peel was doing this when the police service stated in 1829 and it remains a key tactic we still use to ensure Medway becomes an even safer place to live, work and socialise.

Chief Superintendent Steve Corbishley
Area Commander for Medway

The phrase ‘…not least when Mr Turner’s behaviour had generated suspicion with local council employees and he had refused to reveal his identity’,  indicates to me that Chief Superintendent Steve Corbishley considers that sometimes, depending on what I’m not sure, people taking pictures openly in Chatham High Street merit suspicion.

Furthermore though the council employees were unable or unwilling to say under what authority or legislation they required me to reveal my identity, the response of  Chief Superintendent Steve Corbishley indicates to me that he thinks I should have done so regardless.

With an attitude like that the point of a legislative process seems a bit redundant.


  1. Sherlock Holmes eat your liver. The police can now establish if a crime has been committed by obtaining someone’s name and address. Yipee! I’m safe.
    I wonder if this Chief Superintendent realises that the people who flew the aircraft into the twin towers, the people who bombed the train in Madrid, and the Tube bombers all carried legitimate and genuine identification documents. The excuse that they needed to arrest in order establish the identity of the photographer to find out of an offence had been committed is as stupid as the arrest was unlawful.
    Let’s tell the truth here. This was nothing more than a pissing contest with the police not wanting a member of the public to get away with saying ‘no’.

  2. I would love to see the definition in this case of your suspicious behavior. Anyone can say that a person acted suspicious, but please provide the details… point is, the police chief is just making something up to save his butt

  3. Anyone know where Steve Corbishley lives? I hear he makes for a lovely portrait shot… 😉

    Just kidding, that could be harassment, but the thought still tickles me.

  4. The phrase
    “not least when Mr Turner’s behaviour had generated suspicion with local council employees and he had refused to reveal his identity.”
    almost leaps off the page

    Does this mean that any council employee now has the power to demand of members of the public, in a public space, proof of identity?

  5. When I first saw this statement, I saw it as spin, a distortion of the truth and an attempt to make the reader think that you were acting suspiciously. I still see it as that. The fact is that you were arrested simply for refusing to give your details to people who would not convey to you whether or not they had any right to demand them.

    The assertion that “…my officers were placed in a situation where I truly believe the vast majority of the public would expect them to find out what the circumstances were…” is arguably fair enough, but they could have achieved that by simply talking to you, rather than arresting you immediately and parading you in the High Street (before dropping you in Military Road and recording that as the place of arrest – I’m still bemused by that – another convenient distortion, perhaps).

    There are two sides to every story, sure. As someone who knows you personally and trusts you implicitly, I take your initial blog to be a thoughtful, well-considered and honest account of events.

    I believe that your readership can tell the difference between that and a clumsy (and arguably defamatory) piece of attempted damage limitation from an entity that, at best, is struggling to interpret ill-conceived laws and at worst could be described as patronising, ignorant or complicit. Allegedly.

    PS: Crime may well be down in Medway, but if it’s directly due to persecuting photographers, I’m a monkey’s uncle.

    PPS: Here are those Peelian principles one more time, for ease of reference:

    # The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.
    # The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon the public approval of police actions.
    # Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary observation of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.
    # The degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.
    # Police seek and preserve public favour not by catering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.
    # Police use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice, and warning is found to be insufficient.
    # Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent upon every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
    # Police should always direct their action strictly towards their functions, and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary.
    # The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.

  6. Thanks for sticking with me on this. Just to be clear I was arrested straight after I took the picture of the WPC and the PCSO. When I took the picture I was waiting (under the threat of arrest if I did not wait) whilst the WPC checked out the validity of my assertion that I was not obliged to provide any personal details.

    I had asked the council workers, the PCSO and the WPC to tell me what legislation they were using to require me to disclose personal details and none of them were able to or willing to cite any.

    Maybe there is a law that did require me to disclose my personal details. As yet no one has pointed one out to me.

  7. The council workers, police, and support person all need sacking, pronto.

    Officious, ignorant (in the proper sense of the word), power-abusing people need to be ousted.

    It’s dangerous for those people to have any form of social power.

    Especially when they refuse to back down when found to be abusing that power, misrepresenting their power, and then lying about doing so.

  8. Holding up the behaviour of the individual who’s been harassed is the oldest trick in the police book. Recall the various misinformation bandied around by the police after the Stockwell shooting; the ‘suspect’ was wearing a bulky jacket on a hot day, he was running, his mugshot matched that of failed tube bomber, etc etc. None was true, but the public perception of the facts was suitably altered that “no smoke without fire” kicked in.

    Nothing surprises me any longer as to what constitutes “suspicious behaviour” since Canary Wharf security accosted me with the line “you’ve been seen taking photographs”, delivered as an accusation demanding a defence, rather than a statement of pretty obvious fact.

    Kent police’s history of truth bending goes way back; some might recall their astonishing burglary clear up rate from 20 years ago, later exposed as simply adding a large number of unsolved crimes to the rap sheet of any actual burglar caught, regardless of fact. One local burglar taken to court pleaded guilty to 3 counts and asked for another 173 to be taken into consideration over the previous 12 months. This from a serious glue sniffer who could rarely string together coherent sentence.

    If the police want respect from the public, they might be better to get on with their actual job, as described so well in Phil Dillons comment, rather than simply picking on easy (and incorrect) targets and making so much effort to justify their behaviour.

  9. Alex mentions that maybe there is a law that requires you to provide your name and address: there is. The Police Reform Act 2002 section 50 gives a constable power to arrest any person who refuses to provide his name and address if said constable has reasonable grounds to suspect that person has been acting in an anti-social manner. However, this ability to undermine the protection afforded by PACE s3 (3), is severely restricted. The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 defines ‘anti-social behaviour’ as that which causes harassment alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same address. We have been given a boost by Mr Justice Bean, sitting in the High Court in the case of R v Fareham Magistrates Court, ex parte Gosport Borough Council 2006. It was held that a person cannot act in an anti-social manner in the absence of a potential victim. An interesting point in all these cases, Alex Turner, Steve Carroll, and me, is that there are never any prosecutions.

  10. This kind of thing makes my blood boil. Too often police officers, or people with some kind of capacity in security, just want to assert their *own* authority.
    If one is not immediately subservient to their every request, they will take it as a personal affront, rather than a principled choice in an attempt to preserve liberty. They then go about wasting your time and attempting to degrade and humiliate you as much as they possibly can get away with.
    The final straw for me is this kind of official response, again bringing into question your behaviour. That’s a downright lie in my opinion, and you’d be well within your rights to sue for that letter.
    I hope the politicians finally do something about this mess.

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