UK mall bans grandparents for trying to photo their grandkids

A security guard at the Fareham Shopping Centre in the UK accused a middle-aged couple of terrorism and banned them for life when they took out a camera to take a picture of their grandchildren. After the press jumped on the story, the manager of the mall said that they weren't terrorists, but that taking pictures of their grandchildren in the mall did pose a "security risk" and that they could come back provided they didn't take any pictures.

Malls get all kinds of tax- and zoning-deals in order to set up shop in the middle of town, often displacing public streets and squares. Then their owners turn into ban-happy authoritarians who set out all kinds of ridiculous policies and repeat an endless mantra of "private property" without ever acknowledging the public largesse on which they depend.

The couple were on a four-day break from their home in Spain and wanted to surprise their family by arriving at the centre, in Fareham, Hants, while they were shopping.

But when they went to take a photo, a security guard pounced and ordered them out.

The guard then insisted that cameras were banned because of the risk of a terrorist attack - and barred the bemused couple for life.

Speaking from her home in Malaga, Spain, Mrs Sparshott, 51, said: "I couldn't believe it. I was so shocked.

"He said we had committed an act of terrorism.

"At first I wanted the ground to swallow me up whole because it was so embarassing - but then I got really angry."

When I was in high-school, the Intercon security staff for College Park in Toronto -- the mall across the road -- banned more than half the student body and many of the faculty, for arbitrary and imaginary reasons. I remember one day I was in the line to buy my lunch when a security guard came up and issued me a lifetime ban "for hanging around, not buying anything." The irony of my having to interrupt him to collect my change and receipt was apparently lost on him (and the mall management, who wouldn't return my call).

These behemoths take our handouts and take over our streets -- the least they can do is behave like good neighbors. Link

(Image: Thumbnail of a photo copyright Solent News)


  1. I find it really hard to understand this sort of behavior. How can a normal human being be so ignorant as to confuse tourism with terroism?

  2. Cory, I’m not sure when you were at U of T but it was no better at College Park during my years there (1996-2001). As payment we used to march our engineering frosh, all freshly dipped in purple, through their food court every frosh week.

    Hmm…maybe that’s why they hate U of T students? :)


    Who is the terrorist now? THE MALL SECURITY GUARD.
    Or is there a real security risk here? They do seem rather concerned…hmmmm….another reason to

  4. #3: The mall has already apologized for the guard’s behavior and the couple is welcome to go back to the mall. It was a misunderstanding brought about by an idiot security guard. Big deal, move on folks.

  5. …Half the problem is that most – if not all – security guards hired by malls are *NOT* trained law enforcement officials by any definition. What they are, kids, are the school bullies who grew up and couldn’t meet the qualifications for a *REAL* police officer, whether it be height, weight, stamina, education, and above all else *INTELLIGENCE*. These hire-a-pigs are nothing but thugs stuck in a boring job because their genetically-induced blockheadedness prevents them from doing anything else for a living. The sad part is that, like Charly,they’re aware of their unique form of mental retardation. The despicable part is that being aware of just what completely and utterly worthless they are, they feel obligated to abuse their meager authority in making the lives of normal people like us miserable.

    …On a side note, there *are* private security types who -do- their jobs as well – if not better – than a cop. However, those professionals don’t get relegated to the shopping malls, but to more important locations, such as hi-tech research labs, financial institutions, and high-dollar strip clubs.

  6. I’m not too far from Fareham… I wonder if we can gather a sufficiently large crowd of happy snappers to the place.

  7. (sigh) Here come the token apologists….

    #5: The mall should at the very least immediately FIRE the guard for slander against these people. And, yes, people should boycott that mall for ridiculous policies that do nothing for safety and only encourage state and corporate-sponsored fear mongering.

    Accusations of terrorism isn’t something we should take lightly now, should we? It was slanderous, despicable behavior.

  8. The Carousel Mall in Syracuse, New York, is practically an 18+ joint. Under 18’s, money burning holes in pockets or not, must be escorted by parent/guardian as if they were going to see an R-rated movie. The policy is clearly stated on a big-ass sign at every entrance. It’s not just the security goons who are retarded.

  9. @Cory:
    I had very nearly the exact same thing happen to me as a college student. I was in town to do some shopping and had met some friends for dinner. A security guard – probably younger than I was at the time – came and rousted us from dinner and banned us from the mall for “hanging around.”

    And yes, you’re right, these malls depend on considerable government largesse and public good will in order to operate – and often abuse both.

  10. RugerRedhawk, The issue is that the security guard feels it’s OK to act in this manner, and obviously felt that he would be backed up by management (security company and/or the mall).

    Note that the couple has not been ‘barred for life’ (anymore, now that they complained), but the mall manager still insists that taking photos is a security risk.

    Fracking Rubbish.

    And as Corey noted, these quasi-public areas take a lot from the areas in which they are situated – and they give very little back.

  11. #5 POSTED BY RUGERREDHAWK , JANUARY 3, 2008 11:13 AM
    #3: The mall has already apologized for the guard’s behavior and the couple is welcome to go back to the mall. It was a misunderstanding brought about by an idiot security guard. Big deal, move on folks.

    Actually, not so much. RTFA.

    The mall only apologized for not getting the victims to understand better:

    In the reply to the Sparshotts, Ms Gillard said: “By the sounds of it my officers/duty manager didn’t explain the position very clearly and for that I apologise.”

    The mall still stands by it’s no photos policy and will still eject and ban people on that basis, but in the light of day they’ve had to back of their pretend “it’s to prevent terrorism” rationale, replacing it with an equally dubious “it’s for ‘security'” rationale.

  12. We’re scared little chickens now.

    “…the manager of the mall said that they weren’t terrorists, but that taking pictures of their grandchildren in the mall did pose a “security risk”…”

    To who?

  13. The sad thing is an actual terrorist would use a hidden video camera and have all the pics he needs in a half hour and the security guards would never know it happened.

  14. Private property it is.

    However whistleblowing and exposing this bully practices is our moral way to fight back. They may be awful neighbours and get away with it if they hurt small percentage of potential clients. If persistant kicking of kids and grandmas with cameras out earned boycot, they’d act responsibly.

  15. Peterus@16 — how about taking away all their tax breaks and making their zoning applications contingent on a reasonable standard of behavior to the community that’s granting them permission to wipe out its public streets and replace them with a privately owned space?

  16. Heavily-trafficked public places (like malls and airports) are essentially the equivalent of mass petri dishes for testing just how much large-scale humiliation and absurdity people will endure in the name of “stopping terrorism.” I worked at a mall for several years in college and I couldn’t get out fast enough. Fewer people visiting the mall would be an excellent idea, overall.

  17. An apology is NOT recompense for these peoples inconvenience, emotional stress, time, and now, having the unwanted publicity of having their faces plastered all over the intertubes. This event will haunt them for a long, long time.

    An apology is only words. Anyone can issue an apology – watch this – “i’m sorry” – there – was that sincere enough???? shall I type more??? An apology does NOT erase the fact that someone has been wronged or hurt!!! An apology is NEVER enough.

    If the person(s) responsible will not step up to the plate and make a good faith effort to recompense these folks (like with a gift certificate) then the persons responsible must be punished – if the law won’t step up to the plate, hit where it hurts – the only place they will pay attention – in their wallet. Money (or the loss of it) is one of the very few motivators for adults.

  18. in the 50’s:

    “ZOMG!!!11111 Communists are EVERYWHERE@!!!111!1!1”

    in the 00’s:

    “ZOMG!!!11111 turrists are EVERYWHERE@!!!111!1!1”

    Where is our Ed Murrow?

  19. @AGIT:

    And there’s more (moving backwards): 1970’s-today: terrorists, 1940’s-1960’s: Commies, 1900’s-1930’s: anarchists & seditionists, 1880’s-1900’s: immigrants (this one’s coming back!), 1860’s-1880’s: abolitionists (or anti-abolitionists, depending on your position relative to the Mason-Dixon)….

    Before that we had other nations to scapegoat, like the Spanish, Mexicans, or British- before we realized it was much easier to hate “invisible” enemies at home than real enemies abroad.

    We also did a bangup job on witches for a while.

    The internet is our Edward R. Murrow now.

  20. I’m also pretty nearby. I’ll be in Fareham town centre on Saturday anyway, so I might see if I can get some sneaky photos of the place.

    I’ll try to remember to flickr tag them “farehamshoppingcentre” if I get any done.

  21. RougeRedHack,

    The whole point about terrorism, and I mean mall-sponsored security terrorism, is that you can’t take back fear and humiliation. Whether it’s Al Qaeda or the US government or whoever doing it, it works by creating an atmosphere which causes people to fear participating in normal activities.

  22. Terrorists, don’t fear. The shopping centre’s official website has a floorplan:
    Fareham Borough Council’s website has a more technical plan, as well as a few photos and some useful details about the structure and location of the centre:
    I’m not really sure what information the Fareham branch of Al-Qaeda could get from the photos that they couldn’t find more easily online.

  23. I think part of the whole outrage is that these people were in the country for only a few days. Somehow I doubt that the ‘apology’ and the news that they’d be welcome in the mall again came before they had to go back to Spain.

  24. “I’m not really sure what information the Fareham branch of Al-Qaeda could get from the photos that they couldn’t find more easily online.”

    Clearly they were trying to get real-time information on fluid levels in the water fountains and food court drink dispensers to assist in the creation of deadly liquid bombs.

  25. Well. . . if the mall manager says it helps the terrorists, who am I to argue. After all, he’s a mall manager, they’re well-known experts on terrorism, because the terrorists hate us for our shopping malls.

    This kind of paranoid silliness is going on everywhere.

  26. My best friend in college was the second in command of a security guard company in the Chicago burbs. He did all the hiring and firing and told me that the most dangerous and problematic people he dealt with were guys (always guys) who couldn’t hack it in law enforcement (either rejected initially or had some weird reason they never tried) and wanted to get into security as a “back-up”. The best? Retired cops (who can retire in their early 40’s here in Illinois) who actually knew the law and also knew how to keep situations from escalating. They didn’t sweat the small stuff or hassle people who weren’t actually, y’know, causing a ruckus. That’s why ex-cops can all buy name their salaries for security and bodyguard gigs.

  27. I’m still trying to figure out where this international meme of “cameras are tools of terrorists” actually came from.

    I mean, think about it… How will photos of anything help a terrorist? Do we have any stories of suicide bombers in Palestine descending with cameras and light meters upon the market they plan to attack; do Iraqi insurgents take an album of photos of the spot on the road where they have planned to place an IED?

    Or do they just, you know, decide on a location they scouted out before and blow things up?

    Will that photo of the Cinnabon really help a terrorist plot his deed any more than simply going there, looking around, and ordering a PecanBon?

  28. #15: Nothing against you personally, but I can’t for the life of me understand why most people and governments closely associate terrorists with Bond villains.

    That would be giving them *FAR* too much credit.

    Terrorists are typically disillusioned 20-somethings with easy access to explosives. (The UK should also know a thing or two about *real* terrorists, having *successfully* dealt with the IRA for all those years, without resorting to this sort of bullshit)

  29. This is another example of kneejerk fear and extremism. In fact, exactly what terrorists want us to do. Any terrorist wanting to photograph the centre could do it easily with a hidden camera or even a cell phone!!!!
    I urge ALL people who live near the Fareham Shopping Centre to go in there and take pictures. They can’t eject everyone, and they need to be shown just how stupid their policy is!

  30. I look forward to the day such idiots realise that, actually, PEOPLE are a security risk.

    What then? ZOMG!! Ban teh peepulz!

  31. @OM, #6 – Agreed, a lot of “mall cops” are nothing of the sort. Yet we have quite the opposite problem in Frederick, MD. Our pathetic little one-story mall that is rarely even patronized (and is soon to be destroyed and turned into a new super-dee-duper mall) is “protected” by real cops. I don’t mean real ex-cops, I mean real, on duty cops. Why is this a problem? Because for whatever reason, that pathetic little mall is above paying the standard cop rental fee, so those on-duty officers are there for free. The cops doing that shift also get paid more for whatever reason. So my tax money goes toward paying police officers to hang out at a nearly empty mall and stop people from robbing the 33 cent store. It’s been a big, ongoing stink around here. Also, while we don’t have the no-<18y.o.-w/o-parent rule, we do have some equally ridiculous rules... "No wearing hoods."

    Anyway, the whole no-cameras thing is standard policy in pretty much any mall. I agree this was taken a bit too far but I don't think it's worth making a huge stink over. I am a bit surprised because I didn't think they were as quick to jump on the "AH! TERR'ST" fear in the U.K. Yes it's an unfortunate thing, and it should be looked into and all, and the guards should be trained to handle minor issues with a bit more tact, but I don't think it's a huge deal.

  32. People still shop at malls? Why? Is it the decor? The junk food court? Paying 50% more for everything?

    Chased out of the mall by a security guard? It’s for your own good.

  33. @Hohum: Down here, we actually have both hire-a-pigs and *real* cops in the malls. The cops generally pass through about twice a day just to check on things, while the keystone beer kops stand around looking bored. We don’t get much of the young punk mall shenanigans in Central Texas – although one event did happen last year that was actually proven to have been mishandled by the hire-a-nazis, although started by the thugs and their girls – and most security goons know that to tell someone around here they can’t photograph something is a lost cause at best – Austin alone ranks something like third in the total number of cameras carried at all times per capita, so if they molest someone for taking pictures, cameras will pop up out of nowhere and film *everything* in sight!

    …But this is Texas, the state that most Iranians and Iraquis agree should never be touched by the Islamic revolution on the grounds that Texans are the only infidels more dangerous when disturbed than even the most radical extremists employed by Al Queda. Which is why when we see this happening elsewhere, we tend to call for a rope!

  34. IRC@2 — it wasn’t U of T, it was SEED Alternative School, a secondary school. 1988-1992

    Dave Foley’s alma mater! Nice.

  35. “…the most dangerous and problematic people he dealt with were guys (always guys) who couldn’t hack it in law enforcement (either rejected initially or had some weird reason they never tried) and wanted to get into security as a “back-up”.

    I have witnessed this too a little bit. A security guard sub-contracted by one of my previous employers was clearly of sub-par intelligence and also seemed to have a wounded ego. He would sit at his station reading textbooks on emergency medical care and brag about how, besides being a “security professional” he was in training to be an EMT. Eventually the company decided they didn’t need him anymore and his security firm removed him. Of course he left all of his important EMT study materials behind, and I realized that it was probably just a facade to prop up his stature with his co-workers. He also wasn’t much of a security guard– I knew of employees who would walk right past his station with company property stashed under their shirts and laugh about it later (the guard was hired to protect against theft during a period of threatened layoffs.)

    Probably the most incisive comment here is #33 Clay, who points out that there’s no evidence of terrorists ever photographing the areas they are about to bomb. Did any of the Sept. 11th hijackers photograph the World Trade Center? How could it possibly help them? If you are a suicide bomber you’ll get a pretty good view of the area when it’s most important anyway.

  36. About a year ago, I was walking from the parking lot of the Pyramid Mall in Ithaca, NY to its east-facing “Old Navy” entrance when I saw a particularly beautiful sunset cloud formation just to the left of that entrance, over the roof of the one-story mall. So I got out my camera, pointed it at the sky and shot.

    Seconds later, even though I was photographing the sky *over* the mall and not the mall itself or its patrons, I was accosted by a female security rent-a-cop with nothing better to do, who informed me that pictures of the mall and its patrons weren’t allowed. I informed her that I was shooting at the sky and not the mall. That fortunately was the end of it.

  37. #42 – Did any of the Sept. 11th hijackers photograph the World Trade Center?

    Well I have it on excellent authority that in his wallet can be found a nicely composed and lighted self-snapped photo of the twin towers that, photographic novice that he is, Mr. Cheney is inordinately proud of.

  38. This is awesome. Every time something like this is publicised, people will be pushed towards the conclusion that our way of life is retarded and maybe the terrorists will bring an improvement [if they even exist.]

    Stupid stupid retards everywhere abusing power that was given them to hold in trust on our behalf. Public servants who’ve become little emperors. Guardians of ‘the rules’ on the Island of Dr. Moreau.

    I’m sick of it. Aren’t you?

    As a Brit, I’m sooo tired of what this country has become. Almost any change should be an improvement.

  39. I haven’t been to a Mall in over a decade, but if I was in a similar situation (a technically “private” place like a Mall but open to the public) and a security guard so much as laid a hand on me, I’d tear his head off. I’ve seen them do this before.

    Ask me nicely to stop taking pictures and leave? OK, by the time you asked I probably already got my pics, and the place is vile anyway so sure I’ll go… But if you try to “help” me leave, you go to the hospital with a shattered patella. Don’t escalate it either; they’ll tase you or something before you can KO ’em, so just be calm until touched then do what needs to be done and leave. Not to real cops, mind you (no sense getting yourself killed…), just the privately hired knuckle-dragging shaved ape control freaks. If you are a free man or woman, act like one.

  40. Unfortunately these stories are becoming less and less surprising. Last year in London a policeman threatened to arrest me for being a terrorist when I politely asked if I could have my picture taken by a war memorial.

    Take your camera everywhere, photo everything.

  41. You can hear the laughter rolling through the mountains surrounding Bin Laden’s camp. Set-off a few bombs, then sit-back and watch the western world eat itself. Sweet plan.

  42. while I haven’t been to the mall in Syracuse (well, I took the silly three stop train there, but that was for class) I know that the reason that persons under 18 aren’t allowed in the Gallaria (one of the large malls near Buffalo NY) without parent supervision is because of shoplifting. *shrugs* They claim shoplifting went down after they did that. I haven’t seen any real numbers though.

  43. I am a security guard and despite what some people seem to believe, I do not drag my knucles, suffer from genetic block-headery and am not mentally retarded in any way. I believe Cory can vouch for me on this, as I was one of his students at Clarion not that long ago. I am also in no way a bully, although there are times when I feel a sharp desire to use force on idiots.

    Not every security guard longs to be a cop. In fact, most that I know or have ever met have no such interest. Those that do have such longing do tend to be, shall we say, less satisfactory security officers. But good security guards are not like that. Casting such broad aspersions on the entire security industry based on the actions on one – or even on several – people is in no way different from saying all people of a given race are bad because of what one of them may have done.

  44. At the mall near me, the rent a cops where white shirts and ride Segways while wearing bike helmets. (I wish I were kidding). Some of the store have real cops come in, they dress how they please, as long as something visibly identifies them as police officers. I doubt it curbs shoplifting, but no mall employee has gotten pistol whipped this year, either.

    At this mall, there are rules for picture taking. Since it lies along a tour bus route, they can’t very well ban cameras. “This is us at a MALL!” However, pictures are not allowed to be taken inside of stores…more of a “the competition is stealing our secrets” thing than anything else.

    I too, fail to see how taking pictures of grandchildren (at a mall or not) is a terrorist act. The children have nothing to do with the structure of the mall. If I were the couple, I would want a statement from the security guard detailing exactly what was considered terroristic in nature, and how he came to believe that. Then I would want Mall Management to tell me that is truely their policy, or to fire the idiot.

  45. Yup. I’d want a copy of the mall policy and the instructions in question, too. I would also send the mall a polite letter asking them to publicly apologize and retract all accusations. And I might very well sue them. The citizenry needs to fight back against these accusations, and lawyers are good to fight back with.

  46. Its not as if its even a very good mall.
    Oddly there is a camera shop where you get to try out things in teh main hall and lots of phone shops all selling camera phones.
    I may go and do some live streaming, or just a 3g video call.
    Given the number of camera trained on us in the UK I can only assume that that is a major security threat if that fell into the wrong hands.
    How madly stupid this is.
    I know a collegue was asked to leave Southampton mall becuase his camera looked “too professional”.
    So maybe box brownies or pin hole cameras would be ok? :-)

  47. The goal of a terrorist is not to kill people – that’s just an added bonus. The goal of a terrorist is to create, well, terror – just like this. They have succeeded.

    To others – exactly. It’s the same as anti-Communism.

  48. I live in Malaysia, a Muslim country, in southeast Asia. One of those *not* particularly well known for freedom and civil liberties. I take photos where I want, whenever I want, and nobody ever asked me not to. I’ve many photos of malls, shops, government buildings, police stations, airports, inside airplanes, etc. Except for inside museums, I can’t think of any place where taking photos is prohibited.

    On airplanes, there’s no silly rule about not taking water or liquids on board. I asked and they tell me that that rule only applies if you’re going to America or Europe. For travelling in Asia, they don’t care. As for the 2 hour security check lines, well, ours is about 2 minutes. At the most. Usually, you just walk up, and go straight through.

    I think those “freedom loving” people out west are stupid for allowing things to get to where they are now. The people spreading terror, (the real terrorists) stealing your freedoms, is not Al-Qaeda. Guess who they are.

  49. @50:

    I have no doubt that forbidding minors from entering the mall lowered the amount of shoplifting, since reducing the number of customers usually reduces the number of shoplifters as well. Not allowing any customers to enter the mall at all would drastically decrease the prevalence of shoplifting, and I hope that the management has considered such a policy.

    After all, I believe that minors without their parents are often apt to spent money to an unwise extent, and banning them would seem like it would disproportionally reduce revenue.

  50. #18 posted by beerzie:

    You’re either with the malls or you’re with the terrorists.

    Har! Har! So true…

    Remember, the day after the terrorists hit us on 9/11 Bush told the American public to go shopping… so you also have to go BUY stuff at the malls or you’re with the terrorists too. Those grandparents were NOT SHOPPING at the mall. ALERT!

  51. How about a flash mob in that mall?
    Get a large group of people gather there, take their cameras out all at the same time, take a picture and then leave just as they came. See what the rent-a-bully say to that.

  52. Same deal as some airports .. you get asked to shut down your mobile phone even though it has no camera function .. this repeated insult to our intelligence can only be met with a radical stance. Vote with your feet, challenge stupid liquid restrictions, ask for the answer to the question “why?” and challenge the new “because” a.k.a. security in your interests …… I agree with other posts, let’s get a disposable camera sponsor to confront these bullies .. the real enemy is inertia we must stop this nonsense now, its a infantile as believing politicians.

  53. If the guy was using the same camera(*) he can be seen cradling in the pic, no wonder.

    Go to a mall and take a pic with your mobile phone or one of these compact point-and-shoots, and hardly anyone will notice. Pull out a *real* camera, and take the time to properly compose and focus your shot, you’ll be in trouble. If the guy was caught with a Hasselblad, they’d have probably lynched (tasered?) him on the spot.

    (*)It looks like a SLR, and by the way the guy cradles it, I’d say it has manual focus, which means the camera is likely to be quite old and almost certainly film, not digital.

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