If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Friday, 2 July 2010

Police state?

I'm a bit behind the curve on this, as everyone seems to have done it to death, but I was watching this video clip again today and thought I would mention it here.

It's a young lad, 16 I think, who was trying to take some photos of an army cadet parade when the police tried to stop him. He started recording the incident and has now published it on YouTube. Have a watch of this, and see it through to the end.

Impressions: first up, I feel admiration for the lad in standing up to what can only be described as bullying behaviour by a man in police uniform. He's only 16 - his voice hasn't broken yet, for God's sake - and yet he refuses to be intimidated and sticks to his guns. Second, I am appalled by the attitude of the police here. They are completely in the wrong (it is not illegal to take photographs of police officers or the armed forces, you do not need permission to photograph anyone in a public place even if they are under 18, and he cannot be detained by a police officer unless he is told what law he is alleged to have broken, which the officer repeatedly fails to do). The Met's own publicly-available policy on this is quite clear:

Guidance around the issue has been made clear to officers and PCSOs through briefings and internal communications. The following advice is available to all officers and provides a summary of the Metropolitan Police Service’s guidance around photography in public places.

Members of the public and the media do not need a permit to film or photograph in public places and police have no power to stop them filming or photographing incidents or police personnel.

The Terrorism Act 2000 does not prohibit people from taking photographs or digital images in an area where an authority under section 44 is in place.

There is nothing preventing officers asking questions of an individual who appears to be taking photographs of someone who is or has been a member of Her Majesty’s Forces (HMF), Intelligence Services or a constable so long as this is being done for a lawful purpose and is not being done in a way that prevents, dissuades or inhibits the individual from doing something which is not unlawful.

It looks as thought the guys in Romford missed this particular briefing. If you listen to the police officer's words, he changes tack several times about the reason for preventing the lad taking photographs, and seems to be making the law up as he goes along. The lad is accused, inter alia, of being 'silly', a terrorist, and agitator and a potential paedophile.

And, of course, this isn't an isolated incident. It's happening all the time: Google it. It's as if the Prevention of Terrorism Act has given the police free rein to do as they please - after all, if you object you are a supporter of terrorism, right?

I have always been a firm supporter of the police. They have a difficult and very necessary job to do, and seem to get it right most of the time in tough circumstances. But this kind of thing (and the other bugbear of mine, the relentless pursuit of easy collars while turning a blind eye to the hard stuff) makes me wonder if they are not now beyond democratic control.

I am appalled and very disturbed by what I see here. I will be following Jules Mattsson's case closely. I assume he will be taking this one further. I hope he does.


  1. You'll be pleased to hear that the political activist and comedian Marc Thomas is reported to have found the lad a lawyer...

  2. endemoniada_882 July 2010 at 23:13

    Truly, an utter disgrace.

    I haven't always been a firm supporter of the police. The service in general, yes: policemen as individuals, no.

    It's been pretty much my experience that most coppers encountered in the line of their duty are about one word away from turning into officious twats with deep-seated uniform complexes and a sense of humour bypass. The sort of people, in fact, who wear peaked caps because they like the sense of power.

    Not to say there aren't some good'uns around, or that - out of uniform - they're bad company as people. But I've never met one who liked having their authority challenged under any circumstances, doubly so when they weren't even in the right to be exercising that authority.

    The difference now is, of course, that they have some additional 4000 offenses to bring into consideration and therefore have some justification for a viewpoint that everybody is guilty of something.

    Fortunately for the lad, I can see the court of public opinion having a hand in the result of this one. And good luck to him.

  3. I'm sure you are right; the very nature of police work will attract some people who like the power and authority, and they won't be the most pleasant to deal with (or the most effective). But I am not an anarchist - I believe in the rule of law (although fewer laws would make for a better society in my view) and someone has to enforce them. It's not a job that I could happily do, as I tend to avoid confrontations and always see the other guy's point of view as well as my own, so I would be a useless and unhappy copper, but I recognise that someone has to and I am grateful for those that step up to the mark. I'm of the same view as Orwell: "We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm." And in my very limited experience of interacting with the police, I have usually found them reasonable. I've never been arrested for a crime, for example, or been on a violent protest, so I haven't seen the police getting down and dirty.

    But what disturbs me greatly is the change that has occurred in the last 10 or so years - where the police have become the arm of government, enforcing political correctness instead of preventing (real) crime, and they seem to have taken the cue ffrom the POTA to make the rules up as they go along. I titled the piece "Police State?" in a slightly ironic way, but there is no doubt that, unless we get a very clear understanding of what the police can and cannot do, we are heading towards the situation where "out here, the law is anything me and my partner don't like, son".

    That is truly scary.

  4. You'll like this.


  5. Yes, he fillets it very well. After DK has had a go at something, there's rarely any need to say anything more, which is why I didn't post about this before. Why say anything when someone else has said it all, and better than you could?

    I guess I just wanted to have my 2p worth.


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