back to article Photographer hassled by Port of Tyne for filming a sign on a wall

A photographer in a public place was called a “lunatic”, "detained" by private security guards and had the police called on him after he videoed a wall outside the Port of Tyne. Footage posted to YouTube by 24-year-old media production graduate Alan Noble shows two security guards employed by the Port of Tyne remonstrating …

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Re: Not all security is like that, I'm not

The problem is that often times the ground troops do not check with secuirty control or their manager first, they simply take control and demand that people stop doing things that are perfectly legal to do. I've been told a few times to stop taking photos in public places by security ground troops. When I say I'm doing nothing wrong, I'm often told that I am in the wrong and I must leave or be arrested. When I then write to the company that owns the land I was looking at, I'm usually told that I've done nothing wrong and I should have been allowed to continue.

My personal feeling is that, a lot of the time this issue is that that bigger a deal and the 2 hour security induction/training that most security guards are given simply doesn't cover this. The other issue is that security staff are often not given "people training" which the Police are. The Police have to know the law and they're given training in dealing with people in different situations. Security staff are unlikely to have any training in dealing with the general public and unfortunately many of them simply charge in like bulls in china shops and demand that people do as they're told. When people know they're not in the wrong, conflict arises and the only resort is for the security guards to start getting aggressive and calling the Police.

Ultimately all this is a waste of everybody's time. I appreciate there is a need for security but there is often a lack of common sense employed. Yes, the person with the camera could be up to no good but think for a minute. If they were would they stand in broad daylight, in full view of a CCTV camera with a full spread of expensive kit if they had any intention to come back later and commit a crime? My guess would be that only the most moronic criminal would expose themselves prior to the crime at the place they wish to commit it. If someone were standing on the public land, looking furtive, maybe wearing a hood over their head or a large cap, occasionally using a mobile phone to take pictures or video? Heck even I'd get very suspicious of such activity as they're obvious trying to look like they're innocent! Someone with a tripod and big camera wants to be seen, they want to make sure people know they're doing nothing wrong, they're not trying to hide it. Simple common sense. No harm in asking why the person is taking photos but if the answer is a simple, "Cos I'm making an art project for college." or " I like pictures of brick walls!", said in a clear tone is probably far less suspicious that , "Hmm, 'cos I'm here watiing for a mate, to come out of work.", then they walk off. That's obviously a little dodgy.

As urban photographers, all we ask of security is a CCC, courtesy, consideration and common sense.

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Re: Not all security is like that, I'm not

>> We are told to keep a eye out for people taking photographs of the site <<

Is there any actual evidence that bombers/terrorists are stood around taking pictures of buildings they are going to target. Anyone can view most of the outside of the world through google maps and if they were even half competent they would manage to get someone inside with subtle/secret camera.

Like the government's "we need this as it's proven to help us prevent terrorism"... does anyone have any actual proof that taking photos has ever led to an event or more pertinently preventing photos from being taken would stop an event from taking place.

Oh and if in Canary Wharf taking photos and you get stopped then you're not technically on public land. It's private land owned by a corporation so they have a bit more say in who they want to allow to take photos. I'm pretty sure it's possible to get advance permission though if you ask and tell them what it's for.

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Re: Not all security is like that, I'm not

If I wanted to take pictures of a sensitive site for use in any nefarious deeds, the absolute last thing I would is walk up to the outside of the place and start taking pictures of it in full view of rent-a-plod inside.

What I would instead do is quietly turn up a long way away on my bicycle (no ANPR records for a bike) and quietly photograph the place using a camera with a long lens peeping out through a hole in a bag. Even if I couldn't do this, a camera in a shoulder bag with a remote shutter release is not going to arouse the notice of security guards if all the photographer does is walk past without obviously taking photos (whilst snapping away with the concealed camera).

I would therefore hazard a guess that your "security measure" was implemented not to improve security, but more to provide comedic light relief by forcing the security personnel into a real life Monty Python performance every time some completely innocent member of the public happens to point a camera at the site. It certainly cannot be to aid security.

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Re: Not all security is like that, I'm not

"So, on what legal basis are you operating then?"

I would imagine - since he alludes to working some form of stadium or conference/exhibition centre - that the area/plazas surrounding the building may be private property (rather than public street), in which case they would have a lawful power to ask them to leave - much like a mall cop can require that you leave a shopping centre (because those tend to be private property - as we as being public places).

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Re: Not all security is like that, I'm not

Is there any actual evidence that bombers/terrorists are stood around taking pictures of buildings they are going to target.

ISTR that the ones who were recently jailed for planning to blow up the Westfield shopping centre did precisely that. I don't know if that interior is accessible via Google, but it's private property so there's no right to take such photographs. Anyway, they didn't get stopped from taking snaps with a mobile phone like millions of other innocent tourists do, and they didn't get identified as suspicious at the time.

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Re: Not all security is like that, I'm not

It certainly cannot be to aid security.

I'm not sure. Asking a photographer a few civil questions may mildly annoy him and waste a minute or two of his time, but what they are (or ought to be) looking for is

The photographer who runs away when he spots security coming over, or who hides his camera.

The photographer who tells them obvious lies.

The photographer who makes them think "he's a wrong 'un", which category you may place yourself in, if you get up on some high horse about authority having no right to ask. Which should not carry any adverse consequences, other than that you are making yourself into an extra grain of noise that slightly increases the chance of the bad guys getting lucky.

They have every right to ask. You have every right to refuse to answer. They are not the police and you are not under caution. But in most cases you have no good reason to refuse, so why not give them a totally banal true answer?

Personally, if any security people ask me civil questions about what I am doing I'd answer. If I have a camera that can provide instant replay, I wouldn't rule out showing them the recent photographs, provided they were being civil rather than insulting, and provided they were not claiming that I was breaking any laws or breaking any themselves.

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Re: Not all security is like that, I'm not @Dan

If I wanted to take pictures of a sensitive site for use in any nefarious deeds, the absolute last thing I would is walk up to the outside of the place and start taking pictures of it in full view of rent-a-plod inside.

Oh I dunno, you get some idea of their response, you get to gauge the level of security they have from meathead to pro, you find out if there are any cameras watching you when the security gaurds turn up when you weren't in sight etc.

However in this instance, hostile recon is probably not likely unless the port has come under some extrodinary threat recently, and is a laughable excuse from someone wanting to feel more important than their badge justifies.

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Joke

Re: Not all security is like that, I'm not

"What I would instead do is quietly turn up a long way away on my bicycle (no ANPR records for a bike) and quietly photograph the place using a camera with a long lens peeping out through a hole in a bag. Even if I couldn't do this, a camera in a shoulder bag with a remote shutter release is not going to arouse the notice of security guards if all the photographer does is walk past without obviously taking photos (whilst snapping away with the concealed camera)." Dr Dan Holdsworth

Wait a minute there, fella ... This is information of use to a terrorist!

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Re: Not all security is like that, I'm not

"What I would instead do is quietly turn up a long way away on my bicycle (no ANPR records for a bike) and quietly photograph the place using a camera with a long lens peeping out through a hole in a bag"

you don't even have to hide the camera

wear lycra, cycling shorts, crash hat and attach a helmet mounted Go-Pro camera

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Anonymous Coward

The price of being bored

I personally think the photographer should charge an entertainment fee. Those guys were clearly bored out of their skulls and their brains must have already left for the day.

I can full well understand that they have been given some brief about undesirables casing the joint, but that is (a) probably MUCH easier from Google Earth and (b) really not going to happen with a professional, very-much-UNconcealed camera on a clumsy tripod. If you've ever tried to run with an unfolded tripod you know what a pain it is - even if you're a pro you're going to use a monopod in situations where you may have to run.

The problem with getting the police involved is the possible arrest record, because that doesn't get erased even if it was unjustified. Just in case you want to visit what is laughingly referred to as the land of the "free", that is unhelpful. I wish they fixed that.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The price of being bored

"The problem with getting the police involved is the possible arrest record, because that doesn't get erased even if it was unjustified. "

Even without an arrest it is possible that it will end up as "soft intelligence" in the records.

Does the England & Wales terrorist law Section 44 (right number?) still apply - whereby fixed public areas can be designated and then you can be arrested without suspicion? It got some bad press on inappropriate use - especially against demonstrators. IIRC a guy doing nothing overtly suspicious was arrested in a public place like that - and then his house searched on the strength of the arrest.

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Let's not forget the aerial photography:

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=port+of+tyne&rlz=1C1CHWA_enGB637GB637&espv=2&biw=1422&bih=1010&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjlr9WBu5_LAhXDmg4KHSG7CG8Q_AUICCgD&dpr=0.9

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Birds Eye?

Eating fish fingers makes you a terrorist? Or is it the peas? I never trusted peas.

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Re: Birds Eye?

"Or is it the peas? I never trusted peas." --- Huw D

they have a habit of winding up on the floor: escapeas

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Re: Birds Eye?

Eating fish fingers makes you a terrorist? Or is it the peas? I never trusted peas.

It's the custard.

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Trollface

Re: Birds Eye?

"I never trusted peas"

C'mon. Give peas a chance.

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Coat

Re: Birds Eye?

Eating fish fingers makes you a terrorist?

Now that's why I come to El Reg. I learn something new every day and now I find that I never knew that fish have fingers. Here all along I was led to believe they had fins. Who knew?

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Happy

Re: Birds Eye?

Imagine Whirled Peas

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I'm all for whirled peas.

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Re: Birds Eye?

"I learn something new every day and now I find that I never knew that fish have fingers."

They need them to wield the fish sticks of death.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Birds Eye?

Escapeas from custardy?

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Anonymous Coward

Security on this site....

I've worked there regularly in the last. Their security was truly random, often spectacularly lax with occasional over reactions just like I saw on the video.

I know of one person who couldn't be bothered to renew his vehicle pass, who made use of a photocopier and a pen to update it. When, a long time later, it was finally picked up on they forced the company he worked for to give him disciplinary action.

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Both sides didnt help

I see countless stories about photographers reporting these incidents. 99% of the time they have done nothing wrong in photographing from a public area. But it doesn't help their cause by not communicating in advance that they are going to be there.

If someone turned up outside my house and set up a tripod and started to film then I too would angrily confront the person and possibly call the police.

However if the photographer knocked on my door, told me that he/she was going to be filming the traffic going past my house and told me what project it was for then I would be more than satisfied with that.

He doesn't have to ask the ports permission to film there, it would just be better for everyone if he told them he was going to film there.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Both sides didnt help

ref. 'But it doesn't help their cause by not communicating in advance"

no, it does not, however, he should NOT have been harassed AT ALL, regardless of whether he communicated in advance, or not. Why should I pre-empty the fact that the other side supposedly "professional" in their duties, might be clueless about what is essential part of their job?

btw, more likely than not, you'd waste time trying to contact the _right_ person in advance, and on turning up you'd find no different, because the person you contacted, wasn't the right one after all, or if they were, they didn't contact security, etc, etc.

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Re: Both sides didnt help

>If someone turned up outside my house and set up a tripod and started to film then I too would angrily confront the person and possibly call the police.

Just to be clear, you'd skip asking in a friendly, polite fashion and go straight to angry confrontation and the police?

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Re: Both sides didnt help

I disagree. We should not have to tell these people in advance. That just feeds into their delusion that they have the right to prevent people taking photographs.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Both sides didnt help

There's nothing wrong, it may not feel very nice and you have every right to speak to the person but under law you cannot do anything about it unless that person is clearly invading your privacy. If they stood there with a big telephoto lens and tried to see down your garden, that "could" be construed as an invasion of privacy and you would have a right to ask the Police to intervene and start a dialogue with the person doing it.

As for "would angrily confront the person and possibly call the police", why can't you just go out and politely ask what they're up to first? If they get aggressive then you should call the Police. However if you immediately start remonstrating with them then you are in the wrong immediately and if you touch them then you will risk a charge of common assault, even more so if you stepped off your private land onto public land to confront them.

I suggest some anger management classes if this is how you deal with situations you don't like before you find yourself in trouble!

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Re: Both sides didnt help

@ no-one in particular : playing devil's advocate here

You would skip checking with the home owner before filming them at their private residence and go straight to invading their privacy ?

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Re: Both sides didnt help

If a random stranger films outside your house (assuming they are not in the front garden) then what makes you think it's OK to get angry with them? You are a random stranger to me and I'm sure you probably do something occasionally that I don't agree with, but doesn't mean you have to ask my permission in advance or risk my wrath.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Both sides didnt help

Sometimes just being polite, identifying oneself, and just explaining what you're going to do and why helps a lot. In his courses, weren't he taught also how to deal with people? If you're going to pursue a career in photo/video productions, it's something you really need to learn.

Maybe you're not bound by the law to do that, yet it may simply ease everything and avoid unpleasant situations, and if done properly, you can get access to places not so easy to access. Some people know how to obtain what they want, other just prefer ramming into and see who's the hardest horns...

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Re: Both sides didnt help

You can't have privacy in a public place, or on private property that can be seen from a public place without artificial aids. As the old ditty goes, "Don't make love by the garden gate. Love is blind, but the neighbours ain't". Which is actually good legal advice.

As was observed above, the answer for the inside of a private dwelling is ... draw the curtains. Outside ... well, assume someone might be watching, and don't do anything illegal or anything that would embarass you.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Both sides didnt help

Just to be clear, you'd skip asking in a friendly, polite fashion and go straight to angry confrontation and the police?

Depends how close to the cricket season we are and if I still have to play in a freshly knocked in cricket bat. Priorities matter :)

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Stop

Re: Both sides didnt help

@AC

Sometimes just being polite, identifying oneself, and just explaining what you're going to do and why helps a lot. In his courses, weren't he taught also how to deal with people? If you're going to pursue a career in photo/video productions, it's something you really need to learn.

On the face of it, this is perfectly reasonable. But... Let's apply it to this scenario.

He walks up to the two security personnel, informs them as an act of courtesy that he is doing an art project and that he plans to take some time lapse photography of the entrance sign.

They immediately, believing that they have a position in law, say no you're not! You can clear off!

How does this now play out? They are wrong. He was polite but was rebuffed. If he now takes photos, is he being confrontational? Inciting disorder? Invading their safe spaces.

Sometimes...

It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.

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Vic
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Re: Both sides didnt help

if you touch them then you will risk a charge of common assault

Common Assault is an offence contrary to to section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. It is defined:-

An offence of Common Assault is committed when a person either assaults another person or commits a battery.

An assault is committed when a person intentionally or recklessly causes another to apprehend the immediate infliction of unlawful force.

A battery is committed when a person intentionally and recklessly applies unlawful force to another.

So you don't even need to touch someone to be guilty of Common Assault...

Vic.

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Re: Both sides didnt help

Not asking, of course. Telling.

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Anonymous Coward

The International Code for the Security of Ships and Port Facilities

i.e. clearly bollocks.

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Vic
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Re: The International Code for the Security of Ships and Port Facilities

clearly bollocks.

Certainly appears to be here.

The closest I can find to the above wording is the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code - an amendment to SOLAS and implemented in the UK under The Ship and Port Facility (Security) Regulations 2004 [PDF].

This is mainly about security aboard ship, with some legislation about the rights of duly-appointed officers to search them under certain circumstances. There are a few clauses about port security - namely that certain areas can be designated "secure", and it is an offence to go there without authorisation, and that it is an offence not to leave such areas when told to do so. Force can be used to remove offenders.

There is nothing about photographing ports from public land - indeed, the string "photo" does not appear in the legislation at all.

Vic.

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Re: The International Code for the Security of Ships and Port Facilities

Thanks Vic. I learn the oddest things here sometimes.

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Money well spent!

Three years studying a degree in Media Production at Northumbria and he still hasn't learnt the best orientation of the phone for taking videos to share on social media - *sigh*.

It is also not the first time he's had an incident when taking photos - though the previous encounter was a little more bloodied:

http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/walker-man-attacked-cullercoats-beach-9338268

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Stop

Vertical Video Syndrome

Have an upvote! - and while one could forgive the vertical video (just), it really didn't help with the effect of surrounding it with a fuzzy image of itself (a la BBC etc)

Time to stamp out VVS

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He's lucky he didn't try the same at Heysham or Barrow...........at Barrow the MOD guards at the BAE shipyard would have given him much worse, at Heysham he would have been facing the third degree from the port security guards AND the (armed) Civil Nuclear Police

Photograph or film at either place - especially if you have large lenses - and you're an immediate suspect until they've identified you properly. So make sure you take your birdwatching field guides and some kind of ID

A friend of mine was "politely" told to fuck off or face the consequences when filming a tourist video at Barrow, while close questioning is a frequent occurrence for anyone "new" birdwatching at Heysham with long lenses. Of course there are a pair of nuclear power stations at Heysham, while Barrow docks are........sensitive

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Faslane

And yet there is a car park on the hill above Faslane which provides a cracking view of the entire base and surrounding area, where you can snap pictures to your hearts content and the MOD police don't bother you at all

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There is nothing sensitive about the boil on the arse of the world that is Barrow-In-Furness, trust me. (For anyone who hasn't been, imagine the worst place in the world you can think of, and then imagine you're there and being rained on, in a force 10 gale, while being whipped with a wet fish. This is, somehow, still nicer than a day in Barrow.)

Joking aside, x 7, my late father-in-law told me of a colleague of his who taught chemistry at a Barrow school: he needed to "get rid" of some surplus chemicals, namely sodium and potassium. For a bit of a lark, he put varying amounts of each into metal tins (imagine the sort of tin golden syrup comes in), punched a hole in the top and bottom of the tin, and then dropped them into the Buccleuch Dock opposite the school (StreetView - https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@54.108485,-3.2283646,3a,75y,145.42h,102.19t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sxq_BobTs8ql6ORRKmYjFYg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!6m1!1e1) might explain why Plod took a dim view and asked some searching questions...

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"For a bit of a lark, he put varying amounts of each into metal tins"

Wrapping them in newspaper has the same effect. My Chemistry teacher blew the bottom out of the school swimming pool pulling that stunt.

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Anonymous Coward

He's lucky he didn't try the same at Heysham or Barrow...........at Barrow the MOD guards at the BAE shipyard would have given him much worse, at Heysham he would have been facing the third degree from the port security guards AND the (armed) Civil Nuclear Police

Ah, but they are "proper" police, not some vague types with badges that might as well have been made at home with a laminator, and I think there are not only laws in effect around some of these areas but even proper signs that make you aware of that.

As far as I can tell, these guys were making unwarranted assertions and had no formal right to hassle this guy. Inside the port boundaries may be a different matter, but this was a public area. The photographer would have been in his right to call the police to report harassment, if it wasn't for the fact that the police isn't actually that hot on the correct application of the law either...

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@ x 7

I don't care about what is "sensitive" or not. If the photographer is on public land, even the shit-head coppers have no right to question anyone going about their business with some sort of suspicion. Simply having a camera does not count as cause for suspicion, regardless of the size of lens.

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Facepalm

The best way to get their backs up?

Ironically the best way to ensure, that as a photographer, you get questions/hassled by security is bring the most expensive gear you can afford along and you can gaurantee you will get hassled!

If you set up a big expensive DSLR with top-notch lenses, filters on a pukka tripod they will be all over you, someone with a mobile phone or a pocket camera, they will leave alone!! As we all know a terrorist wishing to a do a recce is going to drag a 40lb bag of pukka photography gear and stand there in broad fecking daylight, face fully exposed for ages and captured on CCTV, when they're up to no good! As we know Mr Fundamentalist Nutjob likes to ensure he's well know before he makes his move!

I got hassled shooting pictures of the Thames Barrier a few months back and told by a security guard, and I quote "You can't be an amateur sir, 'cos amateurs never have expensive professional equipment like that, so what are you shooting pictures of?". Excuse me? Oh so unless you have a tax form to state your main profession is photography, they don't let you buy state of the art camera gear. Something must have gone wrong 'cos I was able to buy this "terrorist enabling" camera gear straight off Park Cameras and they never even questioned as to why I wanted it, you need to get the Police round all the camera shops 'cos people who have no professional business buying camera gear are being allowed to!!

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Re: The best way to get their backs up?

You're displaying the fact that you have more to spend on your hobby than they earn in a month (or possibly in a year) so they hate you for it. And because they've got a uniform, and possibly because nobody has ever told them anything about the relevant laws they are supposed to be upholding, they decide to throw their weight about.

Such is life.

Or maybe, they are just trying to do their job to the best of their sadly limited intelligence and imperfect training.

There's no law against anyone asking you a question, even if it's of the general form of "have you stopped beating your wife yet"?

What happened next?

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