Police insist they had every right to stop an innocent 78-year-old who was taking photographs in Norwich city centre but have refused to say why his actions were deemed ?suspicious?.
Retired university professor Howard Temperley was quizzed by police officers on Christmas Eve following what police described to Amateur Photographer (AP) as ?a report of suspicious behaviour?.
Howard said that five police officers surrounded him moments after he had been banned from taking pictures outside nearby Chapelfield Shopping Centre. They had arrived on the scene in a police van.
A security guard had initially approached Howard – a former professor of American Studies at the University of East Anglia – after he was seen taking pictures of people doing Christmas shopping.
Howard, who was using a compact camera, told the Norwich Evening News: ?No sooner had I begun taking pictures than a security man was at my elbow asking me what I was doing. I said I was taking pictures of happy shoppers.
?What was he worried about ? did he think I was planning a heist??
Nothing so sinister it seems. Howard planned to turn his photos into computer-generated sketches for Christmas cards.
After leaving the shopping centre police stopped him in nearby St Stephen?s Street.
Officers reportedly allowed Howard to continue on his way – but only after recording his name, address and date of birth and checking his details with the force?s headquarters.
The centre?s managers defended the move, saying that the building and its immediate surroundings were private property.
In a statement, the centre?s marketing manager Sheridan Smith told AP: ?Our security team will always challenge members of the public taking photographs in and around the centre, especially if the photographer is photographing the building itself or groups of shoppers who are obviously not friends or family of the photographer.?
Smith added: ?We do not unreasonably withhold permission to photograph in the centre. However, on this occasion it was our understanding that the photos were for commercial use and that prior permission was not sought.?
However, neither Norfolk Police nor Chapelfield would explain how Howard?s behaviour could have been seen as ?suspicious.?
When contacted by AP, the shopping centre denied that it was its managers who had alerted police.
And a police spokeswoman refused to give any details about the incident.
AP understands that the centre?s security officers routinely monitor people taking photos, to protect privacy and public safety.
And Norfolk Police chiefs expect officers to stop and talk to members of the public during the course of their duties in order to ?understand the communities in which they work?.
A police source added: ?A police officer does not need to use any specific powers to speak to people to ask them general questions, for example, about where they are going or what they are doing.
?However, there are occasions where an officer may have his, or her, attention drawn to something, or someone, that is out of the ordinary for that location or ?looks suspicious?.?
In an official statement, released shortly after Christmas, the force said: ?Officers from Norfolk Constabulary spoke to a gentleman following concerns raised by local businesses in the area.
?They were satisfied with the explanation given by the individual and the matter was resolved.?
Howard Temperley was not available for comment at the time of writing.