Tables have been turned on security staff at a major entertainments complex as police tell management they were wrong to stop an amateur photographer from taking pictures outside.

Simon St. Clare, who is unemployed, was planning to take a few snaps of the Xscape sports and leisure complex in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire on Monday afternoon before heading inside to see a film.

The 36-year-old (pictured) said he wanted to take a mixture of abstract and documentary shots.

But, his plans ended in disarray when two security guards stopped him, claiming that it was a ?privately-owned? building, it was illegal and he needed permission.

?I don?t want to be hassled. I want to be able to take pictures in a public place,? he told Amateur Photographer (AP).

?A citizen has a right to take pictures,? added Simon who had only been taking photos for a couple of minutes.

Simon St ClarePicture: One of the few snaps Simon took before he was stopped by security guards

The security guards threatened to call police if he did not leave the area – Simon told them to go ahead.

?I thought it was reasonable to assume I was outdoors in a public place and any specifics regarding company policy did not apply. After all, I was not inside the building or in a nightclub or restaurant.

?We stood outside in the cold waiting for the police to come along to let us know who?s right and who?s wrong.?

However, Simon said it felt like he had been ?arrested? by the guards who held him until police arrived.

?Both guards stepped forward and placed their hands on my arms?

?When the two police officers arrived they took my details and then let me go,? he told us.

?They [police] were polite and reasonable and said I had done nothing wrong.?

Police asked Simon to ?stop and account? and, though he initially refused, he gave the officers his personal details to avoid further confrontation.

The officers told Simon that Xscape should have signs on display, in a prominent position, if they wanted to prevent photography.

Police: Photography is legal

A spokesman for Thames Valley Police said officers were called around 5.30pm on Monday 7 February. ?The photographer had been stopped from taking photos of the building by the security staff, resulting in a dispute between the two parties.

?A police officer spoke to both parties and advised security staff that the photographer was legitimately allowed to take photos of the building.?

At the time of writing, a neighbourhood police officer was due to speak to managers at the complex this afternoon [10 February] to discuss the ?actions of security staff and offer further advice?.

Simon, who was using a Canon EOS 20D DSLR, said he has lodged a complaint with management, via the Xscape website, but has not yet received a response.

The photographer has been stopped by security staff before but this hasn?t put him off, he told us.

A spokesman for Xscape said: ?At Xscape, customer service is paramount and we regret that a customer has a negative experience visiting our destination.

?We are investigating this specific incident and, if necessary, will review our photography policy.?

Home Office: We will review guidance

The incident is a sign that carrying a camera in public can still be seen as a crime and comes just weeks after the Government promised to strengthen guidelines used by ?overzealous? officials to stop photographers unfairly.

Speaking to AP today, a Home Office spokeswoman said that, in wake of the counter-terrorism review, it will be consulting with photographers.

She said: ‘The Government’s recent review of counter-terrorism powers recommended a number of important changes to current legislation. With regards to photographers and journalists, the priority is to repeal Section 44 and replace it with tighter legislation that should reduce their concerns.

‘As set out in the published review, we will also be reviewing the guidance to police and security guards. The Home Office will do this in consultation with photography and journalist groups.’

The centre?s spokesman said it will issue a fuller statement on the issue once management have spoken to the guards concerned.

Xscape, which opened in 2000, houses a multi-screen cinema, shops and an indoor ski slope.


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