Fish and chip photographer arrest ‘unlawful’, say police chiefs (update with police statement)

December 11, 2009

Police officer pic

Picture credit: Alex Turner

A photographer who was arrested after taking a picture of a fish and chip shop in Kent has had his complaint upheld by police.

Amateur photographer Alex Turner was arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000, and later ‘dearrested’, in Chatham High Street on 8 July.

He said police told him the arrest was a result of him taking a picture of a police officer who was called after he had taken a photo of a fish and chip shop called ‘Mick’s Plaice’.

A letter to Turner from Kent Police Professional Standards Department, dated 8 December, states: ‘I confirm that your complaints relating to your unlawful and unnecessary arrest and detention have been recorded as proven.’

A copy of the letter, which the photographer has posted on his website, adds: ‘Your arrest has highlighted difficulties in officers interpreting aspects of the Terrorism Act which has been replicated across the country. As a result of the complaint that you have made, Kent Police has reviewed its training provision and published a number of force-wide instructions relating specifically to photography and the terrorism legislation.’

However, police did not uphold Turner’s complaint that he suffered ‘harassment and oppressive conduct while under arrest’.

Turner had been taking pictures of ‘Mick’s Plaice’ when he was approached by two men who claimed to work for ‘Medway Council’, as he took pictures near ‘Snappy Snaps’.

Turner refused to provide details of his identity when asked because, he said, the men did not identify themselves as police officers.

And, because he was using an Olympus OM1 film camera, he was unable to show them a preview of the pictures he had taken.

The men then called on a nearby Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) and were later joined by another officer.

The photographer made an official complaint to Kent Police saying the incident left him ‘traumatised’.

The story was reported extensively on BBC Breakfast, on radio and in newspapers last week.

Kent Police say that the arresting officer will receive ‘management action’ over the incident.

Kent Police Supertintendent Steve Corbishley admitted there are ‘lessons to be learnt’.

In a statement he said: ‘We will take every step to ensure that our staff are fully aware of current legislation and protocols. Our officers are given guidance in relation to coming into contact with photographers and this forms part of their training.’

He added: ‘Photographers have a right to take photographs. Time to time, those taking photographs of buildings, people and key locations may cause concern and it is our duty to investigate this and photographers should not be surprised if my officers ask them questions.

‘In the current climate and the genuine threat of terrorism the United Kingdom faces, it is vital that we monitor issues of concern and take every step to ensure local residents are safe. As a result, sometimes it is necessary to stop people and question them about their actions.’

Corbishley continued: ‘This incident could have been handled differently and we will assess the findings of the report and seek to improve relations with photographers in Medway.’

The photographer has 28 days to appeal against the findings of the police report.

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