UK Photographer Films Own Arrest

Last December an amateur photographer named Bob Patefield was in Accrington town centre shooting photographs of the Christmas celebration when he and his friend were stopped by police for suspicious behavior. He and his friend refused to provide the police with personal details (since they were not obliged to), and were stopped a total of three times before Patefield was finally arrested. His friend complied, provided his personal information, and was released on the spot.

After being detained for eight hours, he was released without charges.

Patefield asked if the officer had any “reasonable, articulable suspicion” to justify him giving his details.

She replied: “I believe your behaviour was quite suspicious in the manner in which you were taking photographs in the town centre … I’m suspicious in why you were taking those pictures.

“I’m an officer of the law, and I’m requiring you, because I believe your behaviour to be of a suspicious nature, and of possibly antisocial [nature] … I can take your details just to ascertain that everything is OK.”

Patefield and his friend maintained that they did not want to disclose their details. They were stopped a third and final time when returning to their car. This time the officer was accompanied by an acting sergeant. “Under law, fine, we can ask for your details – we’ve got no powers,” he said. “However, due to the fact that we believe you were involved in antisocial behaviour, ie taking photographs … then we do have a power under [the Police Reform Act] to ask for your name and address, and for you to provide it. If you don’t, then you may be arrested.”

What would you have done in this situation? Would you simply have given your personal information and walked away, or would you have refused?

Caught on camera: Lancashire police arrest amateur photographer (via The Guardian)

Image credit: Screenshot captured from video by The Guardian.

  • mark

    Can't stand this. If you're doing nothing wrong then just provide your info. Quit trying to make a “statement”. These people are just doing their job too.

  • Cirekoy

    I think the bigger question is what the police intended to do with these details. My guess is that they would run the man's information and see if he had a prior criminal history. If he did, what would they do? Ask him to leave? Doesn't he have a right to walk around on public ground, taking pictures, regardless of criminal past? I don't really understand what the police really hoped to GAIN from their information.

    Since when is taking photographs with your friend “anti-social” or “suspicious” behavior?

    If it were me, I'd have complied, though. I guess I don't see the harm in giving them my ID and name. Still, the police have to walk a delicate line between privacy intrusion and protecting the public. I admire Mr. Patefield for taking a stand.

  • Zak

    I like that taking photographs is blatantly being called 'antisocial behaviour..'

  • Jeff Levy

    Everyone has their right to privacy. They are not required to furnish any personal information. These two individuals were doing nothing wrong. It appears they were on public property. This officer was obviously abusing their power. If these individuals were on private property then the officer would have every right to warn them they were trespassing and need to leave, but that was not the case. Freedom of press, freedom of speech, and freedom of knowledge are paramount above all else.

  • Dave Treadwell

    I would have refused…

  • Chris Cuttriss

    Can all but guarantee that if this story had ended up in a foiled terrorist plot due to the diligence of a handful of police officers the tone of the story would change tremendously. That being said, however, as a photographer it is difficult to imagine that (assuming it is this straightforward) simply taking pictures in a public place has now fallen into the realm of “suspicious behavior”.

    On one hand you have the police doing their job, on the other you have a photographer doing what we do. As long as everybody is reasonable we should be able to coexist!

  • Graham McBride

    A simple request to show a law officer your ID it's not to hard to do especially living in todays world on terrior.

  • Michael

    How is it the job of the police to harass photographers? How does it make anyone any safer? I'm sure it was a great use of resources to harass the two photogs three separate times and then arrest & detain one of them for 8 hours.

    Love the good ol' “if you're not doing anything wrong then [comply|you have nothing to hide|why worry]” argument. Way to kowtow to big brother and give up your personal freedoms.

  • Viktors

    if you do nothing wrong, you do not obliged to provide any personal information. police do not need to breach the low. acting lawfully you you helping your country to stay free or next time they will ask more than this. fight for your rights

  • Stephan Mantler

    They may be just doing their job, but I really wonder where all the paranoia comes from. I mean, how dangerous is photographing anything today, where you can get extremely high resolution images and 3D models of many major cities on Google Earth and Bing Maps?

    Give me a break.

    I'm pretty sure that harassing photographers is only a vent for a much deeper frustration that really needs to stop. Police are tasked with an impossible job – if they're supposed to detect terrorists by any means, they are bound to become supremely frustrated and take it out on whoever is ever so slightly out of the ordinary.

    People need to realize that while the police is pretty good at catching bankrobbers or speeders, their means are inappropriate for catching terrorists – and no additional laws and reduction on people's rights will change that. Neither will instilling suspicion and fear in people. It will only make life more miserable for everybody, and polarize the population (“it's because of THEM that we have to endure alll of this” – even if 'they' don't have anything to do with it at all).

    See where I'm going with this?

    Bottom line is, I'm all for pushing back against authorities. Not because I enjoy being a pain in the ass for the police, but because politicians need to be shown that their policy of fear and cut backs on people's rights will not be tolerated.

  • Ben

    I was stopped this summer and questioned by Amtrak security for taking pictures in and around Union Station in D.C. They didn't ask for any identification, but did ask why I was taking pictures. Had I known the complex issues surrounding photography in this historic transit building, I might've saved myself the trouble. As I left the station later, I saw many different law enforcement vehicles surrounding the building with canines everywhere (unusual to say the least). Bad luck on my choice of days, I suppose.

  • Paul Ney

    IF it had foiled a terrorist plot? You are no crossing the slippery slope of being forced to assume every act of every innocent citizen is a terrorist act UNTIL proven not.
       /ˈtɛrəˌrɪzəm/ noun

    the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.

    at that point, the terrorists are successful. Authorities need to be diligent and do what they can to prevent ANY kind of violent acts, but once we've turned into a military state – what freedoms are there left to protect?

  • adamwright

    In the UK, section 25 of the public order act requires that you give the police your name and address, otherwise you can be arrested on the spot.

    There's no such thing as right to privacy over here.

  • brendunn

    Yet another reason why this country (UK) needs a written constitution. As long as powers can be abused, they will be. If I am walking down a country lane with my camera does this automatically make my behaviour 'suspicious' ? What about all the tourists who come here every year ? The situation is becoming absurd. Would I have given my details – doubtful, at least not without some clarification of 'suspicious behaviour' ;-)

  • PeterBeckley

    This is just disgusting. It's come down to this? They knew they couldn't ask *unless* they suspected “Anti-social” behavior. That's stupid term in it's own right.

  • Craig Nash

    This might explain the problems in the UK. Many amateur photographers are being stopped and asked for details on suspicion of terrorism.

  • mattlacey

    Crap like this makes me happy I bailed on the UK.

  • Chris Cuttriss

    A little alarmist, no? This is no where near a “military state”. See East Germany circa 1949, there are a few differences.

  • Joe Decker

    It's more 1984 than East Germany, really.

  • jimbo74656

    didn't the police officer originally state she saw him taking photos in a suspicious manner behind his back? If my children were there and there was someone taking photos like that I would want the Police to check them out.

  • Jonatan

    First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.

  • guillew

    It's incredible! How is posible that bringing his ID to the police were violating their privacy? It's a standar procedure, if diferent if the police arrested them only because they were photographing on the street. If they brought his ID the problem can were resolved in 2 minutes, not 8 hours.

    Bob you like the show, you did that only to be part of the media.

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  • Chris_cheesman

    Amateur Photographer magazine followed this up with police. You may be interested in the latest news on this…