Police chiefs have defended an officer who urged photographers to delete their pictures amid fears u2013 later proved unfounded u2013 that they had captured indecent photos of a child.

Meanwhile, a lawyer who witnessed the scene in Surrey last week, by chance, has come forward to say how he first feared the photographers – both in their seventies – were being ‘mugged’.

Surrey Police chiefs deny that an off-duty officer overreacted when he asked acclaimed photographer Don Morley, 76, to remove images of a toddler from his Fujifilm X10 digital camera.

And the dispute about how uniformed officers were alerted rumbles on.

Police have told Amateur Photographer (AP) that, separately, Guildford Police Station was alerted by a woman who had seen Morley and his 79-year-old friend Bernard Lockley taking photos that included her young grandson.

However, Lockley claims that the two off-duty officers who stopped them acted as ‘agent provocateurs’ – triggering the woman’s call to the station.

The photographers, who refused to delete their images, have told how they were left reeling in shock after police told them they were suspected of taking indecent photos of the boy.

Morley said police grilled them for half an hour in Guildford city centre and described the manner of the off-duty officers as ‘aggressive’.

Morley and Lockley were found to be innocent of any wrongdoing.

The pair, who were not arrested or physically restrained, were only freed from questioning when police realised there was nothing suspicious about the pictures, having viewed them on camera following a call to uniformed, on-duty, officers who arrived minutes later.

The camera club members say they had been taking general snapshots of street scenes last Wednesday having visited a nearby shop to try out a new camera.

AP understands that one of the off-duty officers asked the photographers to delete any shots they had taken of the toddler.

But, as the officers were off duty and not carrying notebooks, there is no police record of this part of the incident.

However, the force refutes the photographers’ claims that officers ‘demanded’ they erase their shots and their suggestion that the woman’s call to the police station was instigated by the off-duty policemen.

Meanwhile, Stephen Gerrard, a passing lawyer who happened to witness the incident, told AP: ‘I stumbled across the scene… My initial reaction was that these elderly men were being mugged or intimidated and so, standing on the corner of the alleyway, I decided to earwig the conversation.’

Gerrard said he heard the officers ask to see the photos of the child, and one demand they be deleted, though he was not under the impression that a member of the public had complained.

‘I think the allegation was that people were taking pictures which happened to include an image of a boy who had been in a pushchair,’ added Gerrard, who has worked as a solicitor for 30 years.

‘I said that you need to be aware that he [the officer] has no power of deletion and that everyone has a right to take pictures in public.’

Speaking to AP, Gerrard said: ‘Would a paedophile stand outside a jewellers shop taking pictures?

‘Two people less likely to be a threat to anyone I can’t imagine.

‘My initial impression was that there wasn’t an issue until the police made it one. Their whole demeanour was unfortunate.’

Gerrard – who said he gave his details to police – bumped into the photographers again later that afternoon. ‘They were clearly shocked,’ he added.

In a statement, Surrey Police told AP: ‘Surrey Police can confirm that a call was received from a member of the public at 12.50pm on Wednesday June 27 to report that two men were taking photographs of her grandson in Guildford High Street.

‘Two off-duty Surrey Police officers had also noticed the same two men taking photographs of the child and approached them to establish what was going on.

‘After viewing the photos, which did include images of a child, the off-duty officers were satisfied that they did not contain or depict anything which could be deemed inappropriate.

‘A uniformed officer then arrived at the scene in response to the call from the child’s grandmother and was satisfied that there was no need for any further enquiries.’

The statement added: ‘Surrey Police adheres to ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) guidelines which state that there are no powers prohibiting the taking of photographs, film and digital images, in a public place.

‘However, on this occasion concerns were raised by a member of the public that photographs were being taken of her grandson and Surrey Police supports the actions of its officers in responding to these concerns.’

Under ACPO rules, police officers require a court order before they can delete or confiscate images.

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  • Ray Grosvenor

    I am concerned that people feel that anybody with a camera in a public place must be a paedofile. Most abusers are in fact known to the families concerned and are very plausible in their contacts. They are also more likely to use a camera phone. It saddens me that people would rather ignore blatant criminal acts and not report them to the police, yet will get angry and aggressive when they see someone with a camera where young children are present, behaviour fueled by the tabloids in order to sell their wares. Whenever I question this Iam told, “get used to it this is the way the world is and you’ll never change it.”

  • Mr H P Full

    I am quite suprised that they were not arrested as this would then have been counted a a crime solved.

    The Police need to get their house in order.
    My Grandmother was Assulted when burgled this led her to be in hospital and eventual death.

    The Police were totallly Useless and never caught the criminal.
    I would now never help the Police and sort it my self.

  • Stephen Bailey

    Well, we all know that the tool of choice of molesters and terrorists is a camera: the bigger the camera, the more dangerous is the photographer.

  • Don Morley

    Sorry but the police are not just covering there backs but actually telling lies. I would have expected better of them and their superiors. Very sad day for honesty and democracy. Don Morley

  • Allan Barr

    Though not child related
    I was testing a new Nikon zoom by taking photographs
    of a JCB machine which has
    a lot of mechanical detailing, a man in a yellow vest appeared and said “You can’t do that!”
    My reply was “Watch me!”

  • Joe Hargreaves, Preston, UK

    I’m just getting in to Street Photography and the other day a young lady demanded that I show her some proof that I had the authority to take her picture and she insisted that I gave her my name and details of where the photos would be published so she could authorise their publication before I posted them online. At the time I was using my Ensign 16/120 folding film camera (made in the 1940’s) so I couldn’t show her the pictures. She didn’t understand why not! After several minutes explaining nicely that I didn’t need authorisation and that she had nothing to fear, she still insisted that I gave her a contact number. So I told her to look on the Preston Photographic Society’s web, and gave her the URL (http://www.prestonphotographicsociety.org/). Then I walked away smiling and wished her a good day. At best she might view the site and be so impressed that she decides to join. And our membership increases again.

  • Andy Goloskof

    Incompetent idiots with chips on their shoulders and massive feelings of importance. Sack them!

  • phil Johnson

    Is society getting paranoid? I think it has been spurred on by the 911 “War on terrorism” and the consequent distrust of strangers played up by the “press”

  • Rumplestiltskin

    So plod have abandoned the S43 terrorist ploy with photographers, now we are all paedo’s…

    This article sent to my MP ( as with all such stories).

  • mc

    The officer receiving the complaint call should have told the person making the compalint that no law was being broken and unless she suspected her child was in danger, police would not be dispatched.
    If she insisted her child was in danger, and the police were dispatched and found to the contrary, the said person should be taken to task for wasting police time.

  • Geoffrey

    Standard behaviour for the kind of uneducated person who joins the police force. The same kind whose only means of communication is violence and who reaches the age of forty and still thinks farting is funny. Find someone who looks vulnerable, and concoct some feeble excuse in order to obtain gratification from causing them distress. No surprise at all.

  • John Moody

    How can the police possibly ‘refute’ the claim in the absence of any record? To refute something is to prove it false: no literate person uses it in any other sense.