Picture credit: Don Morley
Multi-award winning photographer Don Morley says two off-duty police officers adopted ‘bully-boy' tactics when they stopped him, and a friend, in Guildford city centre, Surrey, on 27 June.
Morley, 76, had been taking photos using his new Fujifilm X10, while his friend Bernard Lockley - aged 79 and a keen amateur - had been using a Leica M9.
‘They asked me to delete the pictures I had taken. I stood my ground and refused,' Morley told Amateur Photographer (AP).
‘You would have thought we had robbed a bank or something. It was totally out of order and wrong.'
Morley, a retired press photographer, said the pair had been capturing general street scenes that included a shot of two musicians and a picture of a boy taken through the window of a shop.
‘They [the officers] told us it was illegal to take pictures with people in them without first asking permission,' said Morley, a former Guardian staff photographer and three-times winner of Motoring Photographer of the Year.
‘They demanded we delete what we had taken because there was a toddler, part-shown, in one picture (see above).'
The photographers, who were not arrested, were only allowed to leave the area once police had reviewed their shots and satisfied themselves that none of the images were indecent.
The pair said they were initially questioned for up to 20 minutes, during which time one of the officers located the family of the boy and appeared to talk to them about making a complaint.
The pair were allowed to walk away from the scene but they said it appeared that, by that time, uniformed officers had been alerted.
Moments later, uniformed officers arrived in two squad cars.
‘The uniformed police... explained that we had been reported by their off-duty colleagues as being under suspicion of taking indecent images,' Morley continued.
Lockley, a former managing director of a building materials firm, told AP: ‘We said we were in a public place - we didn't need permission.'
Lockley claims that the off-duty officers behaved like 'agent provocateurs'.
More uniformed officers emerged at the top of the high street - making a total of six. However, it is unclear whether they had been called to investigate the same incident, according to the men who are both members of Horley Photographic Club.
Morley said the ordeal lasted for 30 minutes and took place in full view of shoppers: ‘This is the first time I have been stopped by police since I started my career in 1957... It was a massive shock.'
The photographers gave police their names, when asked, but declined to supply their addresses.
Morley described the manner of the uniformed police as ‘professional and courteous' as the photographers showed the officers their digital pictures.
‘They more or less apologised but said they had been obliged to investigate.'
It is not yet clear whether the off-duty officers work for Surrey Police, if the force had received a complaint from a member of the public, and the chain of events that led uniformed police to appear on the scene.
Surrey Police had yet to respond to a request for comment at the time of writing, but pledged to look into the matter and issue a response.
However, a police source initially expressed surprise, telling AP: ‘We have very strict guidelines from ACPO [Association of Chief Police Officers].'
The incident, which took place close to Guildford High Street at lunchtime, was witnessed by a passing lawyer who berated the off-duty officers.
‘He told them, in far better legalese, that they were not only completely out of order, but that it was also this sort of bully-boy behaviour that was giving the police a bad name, and turning us into a police state,' Morley told AP.
The bystander offered to act as a witness in any future legal case the pair may be involved in.
Morley said he is considering lodging an official complaint against Surrey Police.
It seems the photographers are keen to erase their memory of the experience.
‘I was very disturbed by all this,' added Lockley.
‘We looked at each other and said "this has buggered the day"... I deleted all my pictures when I got home. I was just appalled with the whole day. I don't want any of that on my computer.'
The incident occurred shortly after the pair had visited the nearby London Camera Exchange to try out Fuji's X100 compact system camera.
More to follow...