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Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Pointless authoritarianism

Back in April 2007 I witnessed two trainspotters being roughly treated by police as they tried to take a photo of a Victorian manufacturer's plate on a bridge. I thought at the time this was a bit of overzealous silliness that would calm down. Some time later, a colleague and his wife, eminently respectable middle class professionals, were harshly prevented from taking a piccy of their daughter departing on her gap year from a London mainline station.

Today the papers report that Tory MP Andrew Pelling was stopped and searched under terrorist legislation for taking a photograph near East Croydon station.

A parliamentary question by Lib Dem MP Norman Baker has revealed that about 160,000 people have been stopped and searched on railway property in the year to September 2008, many of them, one assumes, for attempting to snap an innocent photograph.

Because each incident happened at a busy station, it will have been witnessed by many more people. Even if ten or twenty people see the police acting harshly and unreasonably, that's millions of people each year that will become further disillusioned with the state of policing in the UK.

For a start, the policy is pointless. Every station platform and concourse is filled with people holding mobiles, most of which can now take photographs without it being obvious. Ironically, the photo above is of the big screen at Charing Cross station exhorting mobile users to 'Shoot it'. To leap only on people with cameras is quite pointless. Secondly, the web is filled with photographs of stations and railway property; these are public places and have been ever since they were built. Thirdly, real terrorists are quite capable of carrying out a recce and sketching up layouts without obviously taking photographs openly with a camera. Whilst dressed in a purple anorak with a thermos flask.

Since the policy is so obviously pointless, the only conclusion I can reach is that it's being pursued as a very public display of police authority from which none of is immune. And that the authors of the policy are quite conscious that they're further driving a wedge between the police and the law-abiding public.


Blue Eyes said...

I agree it is ridiculous. Have you seen the Youtube video of that PCSO harassing a tourist filming in Oxford Circus? It puts the police in a very bad light and for what?

As you say, these buildings and places are public, so a terrorist wanting to avoid being caught could simply take notes or remember details and no camera would be involved!

Umbongo said...

No, not pointless. Such unnecessarily aggressive policing:

1. answers complaints that the police "do nothing" when faced with public order "offences". (Who would you rather deal with, an inoffensive train-spotting anorak or a violent underclass scrote vomiting on a neighbour's front door?)

2. creates a public atmosphere discouraging the law-abiding from more assertive (and still legal) activities like demonstrating against government (or council) policies.

3. scores brownie points for the policemen involved because they will have dealt with a "crime".

The authorities generally - and certainly the members of ACPO specifically - have given up on Peelite policing. This rested on the consent of the law-abiding and was based on an impartial enforcement of "the law" ie the policing aspect of the rule of law as against rule by law.

Elby the Beserk said...

The purpose of the police is no longer to help prevent and solve crime, and to protect the public, rather to prosecute, with extreme vigour, anything that might seem to be a "crime against the state".

For example - being a Tory.

How many of the 3500 new criminal acts put into legislation by the Commissariat are to do with crimes against the person or property? Very few I think you will find, no the purpose of New Labour Criminal Law is quite simply to harass, prosecute, and raise large sums of moolah for the state.

The PCSO in said video can hardly speal English. New Labour thugs, paid to harass innocent citizens.

Bunch of hoons.

Newmania said...

Down my way a bit as I work in E Croydon and commute back to Lewes Home of Baker.I `m not sure there hasn1t always been a rather officious side the British character. I have had various run ins with Croydon staff on matters such as riding my bike a foot or two into the station area before dismounting .Using language and gesture that is offensive having been upbraided for said offence . Not turning the light of my bicycle off in the station area . Failing to extinguish my cigarette whilst it was in the station area (although my foot as I pointed out was as yet in the free world )

Bill Quango MP said...

I'd take that photo down from the page if I were you.
Unless you want the law round and 42 days solid Gears of War 2 on the XBoX.You being a "blogger" an' all will only make it worse.

Anonymous said...

It's of course entirely a co-incidence that this was a TORY MP.

JuliaM said...

" prosecute, with extreme vigour, anything that might seem to be a "crime against the state".

For example - being a Tory."

Reading the comments from the Tory MP, was he outraged..?

No - he accepted it as perfctly normal that a middle-aged white man with ID (HoC pass, no less) should be stopped and hassled in the street because of some nebulous 'terror threat'.

They've lost any chance at my vote...

Anonymous said...


What are you smoking in that crackpipe, woman?

A Tory gets hassled by Labour's State Police and your response is to blame the Tories. Get a grip and get yourself to a NarcAnon meeting.

JuliaM said...

"A Tory gets hassled by Labour's State Police and your response is to blame the Tories."

Well, yes. Of course.

I reserve the utmost contempt for people who are shoved over in the playground by a bully, and then pick themselves up and simper 'Well, he does have a point, I WAS standing in his way...'

Doesn't everyone?