UK photographer chased down and detained for taking pix at fun fair

Bill sez "Curly, a blogger and photographer from South Shields (in NE England) was pursued by police after they received an emergency 999 call from someone who saw him taking photos in a funfair where children were present. He ended up showing his pics to a policeman in order to be allowed to leave."
“Is there something wrong with my car or my driving?”

“No, no sir, nothing like that at all, we are responding to an emergency call from someone in The Sundial who has reported you as taking pictures of children in the play park”

“Play park? I haven’t been near any play park! I’ve been on the beach and in the fairground, and I’ve never been anywhere near The Sundial either, surely you must have the wrong person?”

“Sorry sir, but we tracked you on the CCTV cameras, got your registration number and that’s why I need to talk to you, you are exactly as described”

Link (Thanks, Bill!)


  1. Ya’ think the “powers that be” want us all curled up in the fetal position, shivering and hiding under tables in the darkened rooms of our homes?

  2. Chris (#1) Yes. but only if you buy a home you can’t afford and max out all your credit cards first.

    I had sort of the opposite experience yesterday. I was shooting some pix at one of the few legal graffiti walls in town, and some artists were painting a new piece. I asked if I could shoot them at work and they said OK but they all wanted to put their filter masks on first. They asked me twice if I was a cop! What they were doing was %100 legal! My goal was to see the progress of the artwork, so you can only see the backs of their heads anyway.

  3. At least no one’s been gunned down for taking pictures in public (at least that I am aware of) yet. Just to be safe, all new personal cameras will be colored blaze orange.

  4. and that is why england will never again be as great a superpower as the usa. if that had happened here in the states, that guy would have ended up smelling like tazed meat. maybe a busted kneecap, as well; just to make sure he got the message…

  5. Can I just ask a really obvious question?

    What’s actually wrong with Curly taking photos of children /even if/ he had a sexual predeliciton to paedophilia? The prohibition on owning child pornography is because child pornography is, usually, photographs of children being abused. Thus, the argument goes, downloading child porn creates a market for the abuse of children, perpetuating the problems of the victims of these types of despicable crimes. That’s why there are laws against sexually-explicit pictures of children.

    What with all the tabloid brouhaha over child porn and paedophilia, we seem (as a society) to have shifted to a situation where the photography of children /itself/ is harmful, no matter what the circumstances. This is an obvious twist of logic – where as the problem with child-porn used to be that it contained pictures of children being abused, we’re now in a situation where the problem is the camera itself; it’s as if Laura Mulvey’s theories of scopophilia have become taken as literal descriptions of harm. They’re not. Taking photos of people does not harm them. There is nothing inherently abusive about taking a picture of someone.

    But let’s be sensible about this. Even /if/ Curly’s photos were to fuel some obscure, strange fetish for kids on funfairs, what harm has been done? Who suffers? Who’s the victim? Where’s the demonstrable damage? If he’s taken them for his own pleasure and uses them for sexual stimulation (which, if the coppers knew anything about paraphilias at all, they would realise was beyond highly improbable), why is this, in and of itself, a bad thing?

    This kind of thinking (as demonstrated by some of the commenters to his post) is magical. It relies on some kind of metaphysical fear that the act of photography is directly harmful in and of itself. It relies on a mode of thinking that posits the capturing of photons as directly dangerous, harmful or abusive. In other words – it’s nonsense from the very core, even if Curly was a paedophile who happened to enjoy pictures of kids riding dodgems (which he isn’t and which, I’d guess, pretty much no-one on the whole planet is).

  6. I completely agree with #5 – “we seem (as a society) to have shifted to a situation where the photography of children /itself/ is harmful, no matter what the circumstances”. This is kind of nightmarish. As someone who has enjoyed photography his whole life, I totally resent having to be fearful every time I use a camera.

    In the article I noticed that, at least the cop was courteous and apologetic in his dealings with the photographer. This doesn’t seem to be the norm in these kind of situations these days.

  7. a few weeks ago i had dropped some acid and my friend wanted to play with his new camera so we went to the park. He’d dropped like 7 grand on it, i’m not a camera person but when he pulls it out it says “I’m a professional.”

    He’s taking pictures of me being fascinated by a baseball diamond and this little kid who’s pretty adoreable starts following us around. chasing us, hiding behind stuff, So my friend snaps some pictures.

    The mom who was a ways off wasn’t noticeably happy about that. Its funny that she had been more okay with her kid playing with a stranger on acid (to be fair she may not have known that), than she was with some brown guy pulling out a camera.

    The first thing i thought of was these stories on boing boing. Thats also why my friend has the camera insured up the wazoo. He’s fully aware that he may get it taken away at some point in some bullshit police action.

  8. Perhaps they should have put him on the sex offenders’ register, you know, just in case. Sort of like the guy who was arrested for having sex with a bicycle in his hotel room. After all, he did photograph some children and we don’t know for sure that he wouldn’t molest any children, do we?

    For God’s sake, won’t someone think of the children!

  9. #5 says: “But let’s be sensible about this. ”

    I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but those days are over. :-)

  10. @8 – “For God’s sake, won’t someone think of the children!”

    But don’t take any pictures of them.

  11. @#5:

    “The prohibition on owning child pornography is because child pornography is, usually, photographs of children being abused.”

    I’d go as far as saying that 99% of child porn is cartoon, hentai porn.

  12. I was once hassled in one of Toronto’s larger downtown parks, for taking photos NEAR children (not of them, just close to them.) – The Parksworker kept telling me there was a law against it, and I kept ignoring him.

  13. C’mon, he should have been arrested. He /was/ stealing souls!

    Seriously…as soon as photography becomes a crime, I say BLANKET BAN…no news cameras, no CCTV, no dashboard police cams, no red light cameras…NOTHING. NOTHING that can take, receive, or store any image. No computers, no TV’s, no cellphones, NOTHING.
    That way we can tell who the criminals are…they will be the ONLY ones with cameras.

    /end sarcasm

  14. #2 Maybe not all of their graffiti is legal, so they don’t want to be photographed with cans in their hands next to wet paint, even if that particular paint was legally applied.

  15. Nice to see that it isn’t just Americans who are having our rights trampled on through stupidity and fear.

  16. #15 CERONOMUS

    No. It isn’t nice at all. I’m sure it doesn’t comfort political prisoners in China to know that there are political prisoners in Zimbabwe/Belarus/Venezuela.

    (Relax. I know you were just being snarky.)

    This is essentially thought crime. He was suspected of impure thoughts with the children, even if he didn’t act on those thoughts.

    If I photograph a bank it is not a crime. If I fantasize about robbing the bank, that is not a crime. If I rob the bank, that IS (obviously) a crime, and THAT is the line that must be crossed.

    I’m not defending pedophilia, I don’t like it, the very idea of it makes me feel queasy and sad for humanity, and I don’t think the photographer in this story is a pedophile, but as far as I’m concerned a potential pedophile can have all the impure thoughts he wants as long as he never acts on them, just like any other potential crime.

  17. At my son’s school here in the UK, we are allowed to take photos/videos of our kids in their school plays and concerts provided every single parent of a child in the school (numbering about 1,000 I think) signs an annual declaration that they don’t have a problem with it. Come the day the crazy refuses to sign, things may get rather interesting…

  18. Potential thought crime of paedophilia warrents full armed police responce! Makes perfect sense. Let the criminalization of the mind continue apace.

  19. I wonder if the person who dialled 999 and reported this guy as a dangerous paedo has posted his/her own photos of his/her kids on Flickr?

  20. If the UK government and big businesses are constantly taking pictures of everyone via CCTV but they won’t allow citizens to take pictures, has it occurred to you that the government is selling pictures of you and your children? Maybe it’s not the principle of photography that’s at issue. They just don’t want the public horning in on their business.

  21. People who wish to take their children out in public but who don’t want them photographed should have a solution.

    I propose the child-sized niqab.

  22. When is taking a photo a crime? Welcome to the new world order. Fight the facist and become one. I love the irony.

  23. Strangers taking pictures of kids should be illegal. We should all own our own images!

  24. So if I’m walking down the street and I happen to look at you, you should own what, my retinas, my brain waves, my memory, what?

  25. It’s God’s light bouncing off Conservationist’s person and entering Jake’s eyes. Who owns it? Whoever hires Gloria Allred first. The Laws of the Universe are written in the LA County Courthouse.

  26. I was accused myself of mounting a webcam on the window pointing to a childs playground. Total nonsense, it was a solar powered light for the evenings which was mistaken as a camera. So even if you don’t take any pictures you get suspected for it, sad world.

  27. “Nice to see that it isn’t just Americans who are having our rights trampled on through stupidity and fear.”

    Because it’s not an American/European/whatever thing. It’s a human thing.

    It’s just far too often one uses America/Europe as a scape goat for their own problems. That why they aren’t directly at fault.

  28. “Nice to see that it isn’t just Americans who are having our rights trampled on through stupidity and fear.”

    Because it’s not an American/European/whatever thing. It’s a human thing.

    It’s just far too often one uses America/Europe as a scape goat for their own problems. That why they aren’t directly at fault.

  29. The signs to watch for wouldn’t be someone taking photos of fully clothed kids.

    More likely to be the people who have had kids.

    Most abuse is within families.

    Thus it can be deduced that child abusers are most likey to be the children’s parents/near relative.

    I am off to the park and I’m calling 999* on the gangs of peados who take their kids there to “play”.

    (* FYI emergency services in the UK)

  30. I wonder if there would be a reason to call the emergency number (in whatever country), if some guy was painting a picture of a play area with children. I see people at the shore all the time painting pictures of the beach and city-scenes with people–albeit blurry images of people. I’m sure most people would agree that photography can be an art form.

  31. I was just watching a clip of some talk that President GW Bush was giving recently, where he placed up on the screen behind him a photo of himself, aged about 4 or 5, completely naked and standing facing the camera. His wee genitals were in full view.

    It got me thinking that this is the kind of picture that if it was taken to a one hour photo to be developed today would probably land you on a sex offender’s list, yet here was the President, disseminating images of naked children. That it was himself would not even be a defense; there have been minors charged with child pornography for distributing pictures of themselves on the internet.

    I say, Impeach that man for child pornography!

  32. I think I remember something from a history class in school. It was a line from some document somewhere. I think it went “inncent until proven guilty”, but don’t quote me.

  33. Just out of curiosity, what would happen if the police stopped a photographer, demanded to look at his photos, and *did* see photographs taken of children playing in the park? Or someone they stopped for taking pictures, of, say, a highway bridge. Since it’s legal to take pictures in public, what would they do? Haul him into jail? On what grounds? Is just having a perfectly legal, legally-taken photo of a child or a bridge on your camera justifiable cause to get a warrant to search someone’s home computer or apartment, looking for kiddie pron or terrorist bombs? I mean, what do the cops who stop someone expect to find or hear when they ask questions like, “What were you doing taking pictures of that bridge/child?” (as if a real no-do-gooder would answer truthfully!)? I suppose the most that you could hope to find would be someone who’s been ordered to stay away from kids…but even then, don’t the police need to have reasonable suspicion that a crime was being committed to stop someone and search them? I wonder if “a call saying someone was taking perfectly legal photos of children” would count as reasonable suspicion… Not that I know UK law or anything, but still, I wonder what the do-gooders or the cops are thinking will be the end result of these kinds of stops… Beyond the obvious and inevitable advancement of the police state, I mean.

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