Police warn UK man that taking photos of "hooded teenagers" is illegal


The Daily Mail reports that a 64-year-old London man who took photos of teenagers raising a ruckus in front of his apartment could be charged with assault.

David Green, 64, and his neighbours had been plagued by the youths from a nearby comprehensive school for months, and was advised by their headmaster to identify them so action could be taken.

But when Mr Green left his £1million London flat to take photographs of the gang, who were aged around 17, he said one threatened to kill him while another called the police on his mobile.

And he claimed that a Police Community Support Officer sent to the scene promptly issued a warning that taking pictures of youths without permission was illegal, and could lead to a charge of assault.

Photographing thugs 'is assault', police tell householder snapping proof of anti-social behaviour (Daily Mail, via Arbroath)


  1. So, if this guy puts a surveillance camera in front of his house and teenagers walk within the camera’s frame, that would be illegal also?

    if that’s the case, then this law is being broken thousands of times each day without prosecution.

  2. Wow, every time I think we have it bad in the USA, something like this comes along.

    So- in the UK- there is an expectation of privacy in a public place? As was already said by #1- they break that thousands upon thousands of times a day with their surveillance society.

  3. How hypocritical of the English government to get upset about one of their citizen’s taking photos in a public place.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but the law in the US is you can take photos of anything you want as long as you’re in a public place right? What’s the law in england?

  4. The CSO was wrong. This is simply not illegal in the UK.

    It comes from over zealous “child protection” to stop pedos.

  5. they need to somehow identify the “CSO’s” and other “police” that are not in full possession of basic knowledge of the law of the land. Perhaps they could wear large signs around their necks,clearly reading “Complete Prat, Disregard”.

  6. assault |əˈsôlt|
    verb [ trans. ]
    make a physical attack on : he pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer | she was sexually assaulted as a child. See note at ATTACK.
    • figurative attack or bombard (someone or the senses) with something undesirable or unpleasant : her right ear was assaulted with a tide of music.
    • carry out a military attack or raid on (an enemy position) : they left their strong position to assault the hill.
    • rape.

  7. Careful, BoingBoing: linking to the Daily Fail is the leading cause of foot-in-mouth disease on the intarwebs.
    In other words, it’s most likely BS, or, as they say in England, complete bollocks.

  8. @CLUELESS IN BROOKLYN, a private CCTV camera may only cover private property.

    Can Americans please stop referring to England. It is the United Kingdom of Great Britain, i.e. UK. Since 1707, so it is older than the USA.

  9. Just what is the long term plan for these anti-social youth anyway? Are they secretly building a massive new prison complex? Will they be shipped to the new Iran battlefield as planned casualties? Has the government purchased a small island off the coast of Central America from the French? Has a new deal been struck with the Taliban to bring in massive quantities of nearly cheap heroin? Are the bottom end breweries collaborating with a new sedative/contraceptive blend? Or is there some nonsense afoot about school and jobs?
    (I think the rising organ market is the answer myself)

    He should tell them to prosecute… They would be laughed out of court…

    However, if one of the kids called the police I suspect it was a little more than ‘taking photographs’

  11. Okay, so the CSO clearly got it wrong. We don’t know what the situation was like – probably not very nice – perhaps the CSO was trying to calm in down, and in the heat of the moment said the wrong thing. It happens.

    A more important question would by why did a CSO attend or why do they even exist instead of proper Police Constables.

  12. @MJC:

    We could avoid the whole issue by just calling it Airstrip One.

    Seriously, though, the first thing I thought of was A Clockwork Orange – specifically, when Alex and his droogs beat the old man with absolutely no fear of legal repercussion.

    Eng–I mean, the UK, has really crossed the line into becoming a total surveillance state. It is okay for the government to watch people, but not okay for individuals to protect themselves with photographs or video. And the police and courts seem far more concerned with protecting the rights of criminals than their victims.

    It’s like a surreal mix of far right-wing and far left-wing paranoia made real.

  13. What can a person take pictures of in the UK? This might be the shorter list.

    It comes down to the two choices a society can make. Either “What is not expressly forbidden is permitted.” or “What is not expressly permitted is forbidden.”

  14. That is a wonderful idea! We should immediately get to work on a list of places, persons and things that are government approved for photography! I’ll start!: ummmm….. rocks, no – some rocks… in your own yard – parts of your own yard not seen by the general public….non-radioactive or strategic mineral ores…..(help me out here)

  15. It is all media nonsense.

    The CSO clearly got it wrong. We don’t know what the situation was like – probably not very nice – perhaps the CSO was trying to calm in down, and in the heat of the moment said the wrong thing. It happens.

    Over the last six years I have lived in deepest Hackney, Tower Hamlets (UK’s most deprived LA), and now in south London near to where the French students where burnt to death.

    I have not had problems, and seen very few in six years.

    Suppose I could move to the USA: my daughter could be married at 13 and my son arrested and beaten for simply being gay.

  16. the whole story is just alarmist bullshit right-wing rabble rousing from the daily mail. I’m sure the situations been worked out by now. If you go out shooting ‘upskirts’ it sure as hell is assault and this was no doubt what was being referred to. Note that the CPS guy arrived hours later. The kids were gone by then. Rather than taking photos the homeowner need to just keep caling the cops until they respond.

  17. Mark: every time BB or Fark or Dig links to yet another Daily Mail scare story this adds enormously to their page impressions and ad revenue:

    “The paper’s website, Mail Online, overtook Telegraph.co.uk and guardian.co.uk in May to become the UK’s most popular newspaper website with 18.7 million users. But it took Dacre a while to wake up to the wonders of the web, famously telling staff in 1999: “A lot of people say that the internet is the future for newspapers. Well, I say to that: bullshit.com.””

    I’m not suggesting this story isn’t worth linking to, just that it’s something to bear in mind. The Daily Mail’s success is built on a continual diet of hysteria, outrage and moral panic, much of it directed against young people and internet/gaming culture. It appeals to readers such as this person who commented on the DM’s own page about this story:

    “Well done that LABOUR government, the law abiding in this country will be loving you. One wonders if there is anything one can do without having to feel the weight of the law.
    What is badly needed here is an ultra right wing administration to reverse this Political Correct slide into decay, which has been imported by the ultra left wing faction in Brussels.”

  18. He should get one of those supersonic thingies that only the younguns can hear. Apparently THAT’s not illegal.

  19. Argh! More Daily Mail bullshit treated as news.

    Please don’t link to it… it’s a rabid hate mongering right-wing-rag.

    Life on Daily Mail Island
    “A month spent reading the nation’s leading mid-market newspaper took me into a terrifying, depressing world, filled with suspicion.”

  20. *stops to RTF article*

    I think that the Daily Fail has exaggerated their headline. The actual quote from Green:

    ‘A couple of hours later, a Police Community Support Officer told me I had been accused of assault, though no such thing occurred, and told me I was not allowed to take photographs of teenagers on the street.’

    The way I interpret that sentence is that the teenagers accused him of assault, and that the police officer told him he is not allowed to take photographs of teenagers. For some reason, someone has interpreted it as the teenagers accusing him of assault _by taking photos_.

    More likely, there was some amount of physical contact during the confrontation, and that’s why one of them called the cops.

  21. For our British friends:
    The more news clippings I read about your country, the more I get the sense that young people and old people really hate each other there. Those high frequency noise generators are installed on British shops to discourage loitering, there’s the war waged in suburbs against the chavs… I get a sense that if I wore a hoodie anywhere outside of London I’d be ASSAULTED with a broom. Is this true? What are ya’lls thoughts on the matter?

    confused North American scum

  22. The “Police Community Support Officers” are pretty much unskilled do-gooders who haven’t had the desire to order people around shaken out of them by a proper policeman’s training.

    Generally if a PCSO says anything is illegal, ask them to get a real policeman to come along, as the real police have a much better understanding of the law, and much better training of dealing with the public.

    If someone says taking a photograph is illegal then call their bluff and ask them to arrest you. “Photograph them all and let the courts decide” to paraphrase Marge Simpson’s uncle.

  23. +1 to coveralls (#27)–is it really one of the photos he took or is it stolen from a flickr group? Maybe he should stop worrying and embrace lomography.

  24. Nearly every story Boing Boing has quoted from the Daily Mail (with the exception of things like celebrity/tech news) has turned out to be exaggerated or completely falsified.

    This is unsurprising to any British readers, but please, in every thread there are comments like mine and several of the above condemning the journalistic standards of the Mail (regardless of it’s poisonous world view, even if it was uber-liberal, it would still be a shit newspaper), and yet a couple weeks later here’s another Mail story on BB.

    As John Coulthart, please stop giving the Daily Mail page views and ad-revenue – I doubt BB would have linked this story were it just on someone’s blog, the Daily Mail may be a national newspaper, but it has about as much credibility as a 12 year old on 4chan.

  25. Wow! Even teenage hooligans (criminals?) have a right to privacy in public places. And taking photos of possible crimes in progress is itself an assault!

    Would using a Polaroid constitute manslaughter?

  26. please stop giving the Daily Mail page views and ad-revenue

    That’s a slippery slope, that is.

  27. 800LB:The more news clippings I read about your country, the more I get the sense that young people and old people really hate each other there.

    While Engl… the UK might be particularly bad in this regard, America’s not great either. I was born in Brazil and lived there until I was 11. When I moved to the US, one of the first things I noticed is how the way adults see and talk to kids in the US is very different from in Brazil. (I moved back to Brazil when I was 14 (and visited the US often) and then moved back up here when I was 18 (and still visit Brazil often), so I got a good view of this throughout my adolescence).

    Adults in the US are much more likely (than adults in Brazil) to be patronizing towards kids, use angry or stern tones of voice when talking with kids, bark orders at kids (rather than saying “Could you do me a favor…”), not consult kids when making decisions that affect them… But in Brazil, in my experience anyways, adults talks to kids with respect, not quite as peers but in a way which recognizes that kids have opinions, desires, and the capacity for reason and compassion.

    In Brazil, parents don’t deny that they did regrettable things in their youth, and they expect that their adolescent kids will hide some riskier actions from them. These recognitions allow Brazilian adolescents and adults to have a relationship where they want to learn from each other’s point of view, where they see each other as similar people in different stages of life. Adults see kids and remember that they were like that a couple decades before, and kids see adults and know that they will be like that in a couple decades, and not many people worry about this. Contrast this with the alienation that is so common between adults and adolescents in the US, who see each other as undecipherable beings of different species, to the point where they have a hard time empathizing with each other, recognizing the other’s tastes and preferred behaviors as valid ways to fulfill real desires. This alienation is kinda sad, IMHO.

  28. We don’t call the UK ‘England’ because we’re dumb. We’re just more realistic about the future of devolution.

  29. Ive lived my whole life in the UK in one of the big cities and ive yet to see one of these “hoodies”. Actually i rarely see any kids at all in the streets getting up to trouble like i used to do at that age.
    I blame that internets

  30. no more Daily mail…. My leech senses are tingling… Very well: there will be no more Daily Mail – provided! Provided you send a cashier’s cheque or money order for the sum of ten British pounds immediately! The Dail Mail will cease when the “donations” reach an appropriate threshold. BWAHAHAHAHA!

  31. It seems pretty obvious to me: Just get a big dog and let it out the front door. No worries.

  32. @37

    Why? It doesn’t censor them, it merely doesn’t give them the attention they desire. BB doesn’t link neo-Nazi studies about Jewish world dominance, maybe it should give them some exposure too? Just to be fair.

    Just because I’d defend to the death the Mail’s right to publish/say what it wants, doesn’t mean I actually have to read or look at its drivel.

  33. It doesn’t censor them, it merely doesn’t give them the attention they desire.

    That’s not the point. The point is Mark not censoring his info sources. If a neo-Nazi discovered something really interesting, I imagine that Mark would still report it, with a juicy gobbet of snark aimed at the source. Regular BB readers must accept that some amount of posts will turn out to be bogus. And even if they are, they still might be entertaining stories.

    doesn’t mean I actually have to read or look at its drivel.

    What’s sauce for The Mail is also sauce for BoingBoing.

  34. And Christian Bale was just arrested for yelling at his mom. What next, Jolly Old England?

  35. @48

    I agree with your point regarding things that are genuinely interesting/factual, which is why I said ‘with the exception of things like celebrity/tech news’ in my original point.

    However, this is the second post (that I can remember off the top of my head) linking a story that from the off, regardless of which paper it was published in, smacks of embellishment and poor journalism. The fact that it’s in the Mail makes this case even stronger.

    The other story BB linked the Mail in was the secondary school ‘drunken orgy’, which turned out to be a few kids drinking in a park and some couples making out.

    As someone else has pointed out, the PCSO did not say that photographing the kids was assault, the kids did. This is an example of the Mail stretching the story to fit its anti-‘hoodies’ and ‘political correctness gone mad’ (which can apply to nearly anything apparently) agendas.

  36. #10 Umm…calling it “England” is correct. This little web clip should help to clear things up. England is part of the UK, and the UK is certainly a great catch all, but the UK is not England.

    Great Britain, the United Kingdom and the British Isles do not mean the same thing. Great Britain is very often, but incorrectly, used as a synonym for the sovereign state properly known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

    The United Kingdom is made up of
    1. England: The Capital is London.
    2. Scotland: The Capital is Edinburgh.
    3. Wales: The Capital is Cardiff.
    4. Northern Ireland: The Capital is Belfast.

  37. @47

    ”I’d defend to the death the Mail’s right to…’

    As a First Amendment fanatic, I’d like to be with you on this, but . . . don’t you think that’s a bit much?

    How about . . . to the point of considerable discomfort? I can probably do that.

  38. in fact, “England” etc. are all minor break-away provinces of Ireland that currently wallow in their degeneracy and will eventually be brought back to civilization when the time is right.

  39. Sorry gang, but this is not Daily Mail BS.

    This story featured on the London local section of the BBC News last night.

    They followed the report with a Home Office statement to the effect that photography is not illegal anywhere, so long as it doesn’t cause a public nuisance etc.

    And, I can confirm the photo above is one of the man in question’s shots, as featured on the BBC News.

  40. Also, to MJC @ #10:

    This happened in England, so it’s fine to say so. And as there isn’t parity of law between Scotland and the rest of the UK, it is probably more correct to refer to the appropriate country when talking of laws.

    Also, what’s “older than the USA” have to do with it?

    The fact is, the US declared independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, not the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom (of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) didn’t come about til the act of Union between Britain and Ireland in 1800. The 1707 you are talking about, was the Act of Union, which created the Kingdom of Great Britain.

    So, the UK is younger than the USA.

  41. My understanding (from an old Flanders and Swann album) is that when something good happens, it’s “another triumph for Great Britain!”, but when something bad happens it’s “England loses again”.

  42. I might add that CSOs are nothing more than local busy bodies who are not good enough to become police officers. Often they are voluntary…. You can well imagine the sort of people that are attracted to that role!!!

  43. For once, the Daily Nazi (Mail) is running a thread of alarmist crap stories that I actually agree with! Keep up the good work! Whip up middle England into an anti anti-street photograpy frenzy! Free the cameras!

  44. He should keep a chamberpot full of night waste to throw out from the upper floors… all he has to do when chucking it out is to shout “garde a’l’eau”… if they get hit, well it’s their lookout as they had proper warning…

  45. Another vote here for no more Daily Mail.

    For those who aren’t sure what a UK reader’s choice of newspaper says about them, this extract from Yes Minister may help:

    Jim Hacker: I know exactly who reads the papers: The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country; The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country; The Times is read by people who actually do run the country; the Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country; the Financial Times is read by people who own the country; The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country; and The Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.

    Sir Humphrey: Prime Minister, what about the people who read The Sun?

    Bernard: Sun readers don’t care who runs the country, as long as she’s got big tits.

  46. I know its really late and no one’s even reading anymore. And this isn’t really on topic anyway, but…

    I think I’m seeing slowly increasing levels of snark between US and UK folks about who has the stupider “security” laws; worst, dumbest cops, etc. As far as I can tell, BOTH countries are in pretty poor shape as far as these issues go. All of us who care about freedom, civility, common sense and all that good stuff – have a lot of work to do. Seems wasteful to spend time arguing with each other about which side of the pond has fouled it up worse.

    Just sayin.

  47. Newspaper snobbery just contributes to the ever increasing levels of Bullsh1t in this world.

    The Daily Mail may concentrate on those type of stories and may bend the truth a little to make it more convincing, but EVERY newspaper does that.
    Are we suggesting this story is a lie?
    Was the homeowner a known peadophile?
    Did he also threaten violence?

    If he did, then all is OK, if not then we have a very disturbing trend appearing, wether reported by the mail or the Times.

  48. Honestly, the Daily Mail is a fairly scary publication.

    Certainly, in this case, as pointed out by #31, the headline is “exaggerated”. This could be taken to mean that at least that part of the story is a lie.

    And the point here is not for Mark to self-censor and never link to them, but rather to find a more reliable source for the same story if possible. Almost any other U.K. publication is superior. #65 has a nice list.

  49. The most frightening thing I have ever read on BoingBoing is the phrase “Police Community Support Officer”.

    George Orwell was an optimist.

  50. mjc “Can Americans please stop referring to England. It is the United Kingdom of Great Britain, i.e. UK. Since 1707, so it is older than the USA.”
    England England England!

    Jake0748 “I think I’m seeing slowly increasing levels of snark between US and UK folks about who has the stupider “security” laws; worst, dumbest cops, etc.”
    USA! USA! USA! Woo! /me waves big foam #1 hand

    I’m glad that I could help raise the level of discourse here.

  51. would it be possible for the UK and US to somehow collaborate and ship all their mentally stunted “security” personnel to an agreed third nation?

  52. Maybe we can ship them somewhere under the guise of disaster relief? We don’t need to mention that it is OUR disaster we’re relieving.

  53. We need a ‘B’ Ark for all the TSA screeners, jumped up PCSO’s and traffic wardens…

  54. This might be a bit radical, but perhaps someone ought to show that cop what an actual assault is?

    Or better yet, as I recently suggested on my podcast, perhaps we can round all of these petty tyrants up and put them on an island together. Ship them off, sort of like telephone sanitation engineers and the like in the Hitchhiker’s trilogy.

  55. I would say the problem is the CSOs in general. I know one who I would have said is an alright bloke, but I’ve seen him shout at some poor sod on a scooter for no apparent reason.

    Earlier I saw a CSO stop a group of teenagers on bikes because some other teenagers on bikes had buggered off without paying from the Indian restaurant. He had a go at them for cycling on the pavement (Which they weren’t doing) and told them not to cycle in such a large group. What he didn’t do was give them any of the paperwork he should have given them when he stopped them.

    These people become CSOs because they can’t be arsed or are unable to pass the tests required to become an actual copper but they like power. Imagine what the CSO’s response would have been if he had actually been asked for the “stop” paperwork from one of the teenagers. It would probably not have been a reasonable “Oh, right, mate. We are supposed to do that, aren’t we?” The story can be explained by a CSO loving his power too much.

    Besides, nothing wrong with teenagers in hoodies. I am a teenager, and I wear a hoodie. They are comfortable, and when there is surprise rain (This is the UK) you can feel smugly superior.

  56. The article says … a Police Community Support Officer told me I had been accused of assault, though no such thing occurred, and told me I was not allowed to take photographs of teenagers on the street., which sounds to me like the kid who phoned the cops says he was assaulting them. Not that taking a photo amounts to assault. Kind of make sense. What was the kid going to say? “We were just disturbing the folks there, throwing coke cans around, and generally being a pain, when this old guy came down and started taking photos. In fact one of my friends threatened to kill him.”

    However, a few paragraphs up, it does say that taking photos could lead to a charge of assault. The article is not self-consistent. Either the reporter who wrote up the piece at a blood alcohol level that was too high. Or more likely, an editor didn’t read it properly and messed it all up.

  57. @ 27 (Coveralls)- Yep, this really is a *great* shot. The original article says this is one of the photos that David Green took but someone clearly cropped it in a way that enhances the composition.

    It may have been the photographer but I’d guess it was someone at the Daily Mail. This is generally considered a legit change for a photo editor to make as long as no important contextual information is cropped out.

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