back to article Trial date set for Brit police 'copter coppers over spying-on-doggers claims

The five officers from South Yorkshire Police accused of using a copper 'copter to record people who were naked or having sex will contest the allegations at their trial next year. The men all deny guilt. The serving and retired coppers were arrested as part of an internal investigation following reports that the force's …

  1. Warm Braw Silver badge

    Spotting chopper spotted chopper-spotting?

    Not quite sure how that led to an internal investigation, I would have thought dragging them off by the rozzers would have been sufficient.

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: dragging them off by the rozzers

      caught by the fuzz?

      1. fruitoftheloon

        @ Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese: Re: dragging them off by the rozzers


        that sounds f'ing painful....

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: dragging them off by the rozzers

        caught by the fuzz?

        Wasn't that called "the short & curlies"?

        Ouch :)

    2. 0laf Silver badge

      Re: Spotting chopper spotted chopper-spotting?

      But did the Spotting chopper spotted chopper-spotting spotta whoppa?

  2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  3. Little Mouse
    Black Helicopters

    Were they using Blue Thunder in Whisper Mode?

    Those Police Helicopters aren't exactly quiet. I'm pretty sure I'd notice one hovering outside my window, even if I was "otherwise distracted".

    1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      I'm guessing they were outside (hence dogging), and if you're making the beast with two backs in an open area then those coppercopters can be a long way away and still make out recognisable features. I seem to remember an episode of Road Wars where they were quite chuffed with their new Eurocopter superzoom camera+FLIR, which could read number plates from more than a mile away.

      1. Ralph B

        > superzoom camera

        That's what I thought. Pig paps peeping at big baps?

      2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        "I'm guessing they were outside (hence dogging)"

        Isnt that some sort of offence?

        Had the coppers been in a proactive mood they could have made some arrests, and had a close up perv while they were at it!

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Not sure about the law in the UK, but doesn't it depend where? If you're in your own backyard and have a fence so the neighbors can't see, that's not illegal. If you are in a clearing well off the beaten path with no reason to think someone will walk by I wouldn't think that's illegal if no people actually go by - if only the cops are able to see you from the air but no citizens complain why should the police be involved?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'm pretty sure I'd notice one hovering outside my window, even if I was "otherwise distracted".

      Depends how fast you were going..


  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Somethings a bit off here.

    Dogging is a crime as far as I am aware, public decency.

    So how can recording or watching a crime in itself be a crime?

    The headline however has much potential "Copper Chopper in dogging stopper shocker"

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      I think it can become a crime if someone complains, but alfresco orgies are probably OK as long as they are kept discreet.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      So how can recording or watching a crime in itself be a crime?

      If the "crime" (which is IMHO up for debate itself, but hard to know from just the article) was in a secluded area like a garden, it was none of their business as it was NOT in public. At that point these coppers turn into a drone operators doing the same, just that their toys can be more expensive as the taxpayer is footing the bill. Observing events on private property can be termed surveillance, and that requires prior approval.

      IANAL, mind, just having a stab (sorry) at the reasons these people were sent to court. Abuse of privileges must indeed be slapped down hard. Which again gets me perilously close to a euphemism :).

    3. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      "Dogging is a crime as far as I am aware, public decency.

      So how can recording or watching a crime in itself be a crime?"

      This is a bit like the story of the old lady who goes into the police station and says that she can look out of her window and see her neighbours having sex in their bedroom. The policeman tells her that they shouldn't be doing that where they can be seen, and that she needs to keep a diary of when she sees them doing it, as that will be evidence.

      "Oh dear," she says, "I can't do that, my son in law has taken his telescope back."

      ...and recording evidence of a crime can itself be criminal, e.g. making child pornography videos.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      At a guess the were recording (and possibly sharing) footage when they weren't filming for the purposes of preventing crime. A helicopter is a very expensive resource to deploy, and using it against that sort of miscreant would seem unlikely. If they knew that the plods on the ground were unable or unwilling to respond, then to film the act would seem very likely to be for their own entertainment.

      Having said that, this case involves (yet again) the serial bunglers of South Yorkshire plod. I'd guess that after a hugely expensive trial the case will collapse, and taxpayers will foot several hundred thousand quid of investigation costs, plus both prosecution and defence legal costs.

    5. Credas Silver badge

      So how can recording or watching a crime in itself be a crime?

      If someone's committing an offence it doesn't suddenly make it impossible for them to be victims of a crime; you presumably wouldn't have suggested that someone nicking their wallets, say, while they were "distracted" wasn't committing a crime?

    6. Khaptain Silver badge

      Voyeurism !

      On top of that one must ask what they did with the videos afterwards, YouTube , youporn, revenge porn etc .

      And I would hate to think that the police now require helicopters in order to record dogging, it seems a rather overboard method for such a banal "crime"....

    7. You aint sin me, roit

      I'm not a lawyer but I believe you are incorrect.

      There's nothing illegal in exposing oneself - as long as it isn't intended to cause offence. I don't even think the "I didn't see it but I'd have been offended if I had" argument works either. For there to be an offence someone who was watching had to be offended.

      And it's not illegal to watch either, as long as the performers know and consent.

      In fact, the illegal voyeurism was performed by the coppers: "operates equipment with the intention of enabling another person to observe, for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification, a third party doing a private act, and he knows that the third party does not consent to his operating equipment with that intention".

      It is reasonable to assume that by having sex in a deserted area, at night, in a car, the doggers did not consent to the cops watching them.

      And presumably this is indeed the case, otherwise the cops wouldn't be being prosecuted... "four counts of misconduct relating to watching and filming naked people without their consent and observing and recording people performing sexual acts".

      1. JohnMurray

        Public sex is not illegal in the UK.

        Causing offence by having sex in public CAN be an offence IF observed.

        However, observing people naked/engaged in sexual acts, without their knowledge and/or consent is illegal: AND it is a serious sexual offence.

        So is the use of cameras to record the scenes.

        I think sentencing guidelines still start at 6 months suspended plus mandatory registration on the sex offenders register.

    8. Graham Marsden

      @AC: "Dogging is a crime as far as I am aware, public decency."


      Sexual Offences Act 2003 - Section 66 - A person commits an offence if—

      (a) he intentionally exposes his genitals, and

      (b) he intends that someone will see them and be caused alarm or distress.

      Section 67 - A person commits an offence if—

      2) (a)he operates equipment with the intention of enabling another person to observe, for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification, a third person (B) doing a private act, and

      (b)he knows that B does not consent to his operating equipment with that intention.

      3) (a) he records another person (B) doing a private act,

      (b)he does so with the intention that he or a third person will, for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification, look at an image of B doing the act, and

      (c)he knows that B does not consent to his recording the act with that intention.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: @AC: "Dogging is a crime as far as I am aware, public decency."

        Does the 'he' in those laws imply he or she? I assume it does.

        It sounds like the UK law is more liberal than those typically found in the US (there is no national law against nudity or even public sex in the US, all such laws are state or local) In the US typically the law states "know or should have known" rather than "intends" someone observe.

        So in the UK if you were naked in a field near a school an hour before classes were let out, and didn't know the students had early release that day and would be walking right by on their way home, it sounds like you'd (theoretically, at least) be in the clear? In the US, you'd not be, as they'd say you should have known that some days let out early.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @AC: "Dogging is a crime as far as I am aware, public decency."

        2) (a)he operates equipment with the intention of enabling another person to observe, for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification, a third person (B) doing a private act

        The way I've seen the police act, wearing glasses appears to be enough to qualify..

      3. Pat Harkin

        Re: @AC: "Dogging is a crime as far as I am aware, public decency."

        Your honour, I have been charged under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 - Section 66 - claiming that

        (a) I intentionally exposed my genitals, and that

        (b) I intended that someone would see them and be caused alarm or distress.

        While I admit the first allegation, I reject the second. My intention was that someone would be caused amazement and delight!

    9. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Dogging is a crime as far as I am aware, public decency.

      Yes and no. Dogging and outraging public decency are a crime on public land or somewhere where you are easily observable from other people's private land or from public land.

      You can do whatever you f***ing (literally) please on private land in a location which is not observable by neighbors with the landowner's permission and/or if you are the landowner. All you need to prove in court is that you had a reasonable expectation of privacy where you were doing it.

      Using technical means to record activity in such cases falls under a range of statutes and these guys are getting nailed only under some of them. Though the ones they are being hit are the "worst" as far as they are concerned as a conviction will result in loss of police officer pension and benefits.

    10. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      public decency

      If no-one else was around, then ironically it would only become an offence of outraging public decency at the point the copper chopper turned up to view it. And then only if there were at least 2 coppers in the chopper.

  5. Jemma Silver badge

    Police in court?

    And "The flight waiting at gate 6 is the 13:35 flying pig to JFK...."

    I'll believe it when I see it. Which is about as likely as Jimmy Saville being the first awardee of the "lifelong achievement in kiddiefiddling" award. Last I heard the police were effectively immune to prosecution on the orders of the Reichsfuhrerin.

    * sorry if I sound a little bitter - just had a actinic keratinoma/basal cell carcinoma lasered out of arm, any contact with the local NHS always puts me on edge..

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Police in court?

      Put you tin-foil hat away; it's not unheard of for police officers t be prosecuted, and convicted of crimes, as well you'd know if you'd even bothered to do a cursory search on google.

      It's also not that common (given the total number of officers), and understandably so, since most police staff are well behaved individuals, and have to undergo rigorous pre-employment checks in an effort to try to make sure that this is the case.

      1. Jemma Silver badge

        Re: Police in court?

        I have many reasons to loathe Police officers, since the first time I requested their "help" at age 13, including but not limited to.

        1. Being lied to by the Police on so many occasions I can't keep up with them.

        2. Being physically assaulted by them

        3. Being run off the road deliberately by them, at high speed, for no discernible reason that even *they* could come up with for an excuse. Not to mention the local piggies dismal driving abilities - I'm amazed they don't wipe out four or five motorists a month, around here they're a menace.

        4. Physical assault

        5. Verbal abuse

        6. Being deliberately lied to as a victim of crime.

        7. Being subject to death threats which were ignored by said piglets, regarding being a member of a minority religion.

        8. Their almost universal complete ignorance of any part of the UK law that they happen to disagree with, and disregard thereof.

        YMMV may vary of course, I have the pleasure of the company of Essex police, a group of people that take the arts of incompetence, discrimination and downright asshole-ery to levels that would have the NKVD calling "time out".

        If you "bothered to do your research" you would find that May has made it law that Police cannot be brought to law via legal aid - which effectively means people of normal means have to rely on the IPCC which I can speak from personal experience are a joke. Anyone who has money and sues or attempts to prosecute the Police can look forward to abuse, harassment at the least.

        How do I make this clear? Ah yes. Were I to come across piggies in a burning car, I'd pop to the nearest sainsburys for some barbecue chicken wings and a pair of tongs, barbecue for the use of. Anyone else I'd be happy to help.

        1. Dave 15 Silver badge

          Re: Police in court?

          Its nothing to do with minority religion or anything like that, I am British, white, male... the police have failed on several occasions. However I do point out that when I stated that I was going to go and deal with my sons assailants they put down their doughnuts and rushed over... of course they then failed to find anyone.... but at least they got out of the station

        2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: Police in court?

          @Jemma, it sounds like you have had some unpleasant run-ins with some nasty individuals working with the Essex constabulary. Unfortunately, it is a job that can attract a certain type of person, and this can colour people's perception of the police and the important job they do. South Yorkshire police have a history of employing these people, and there is a long and unfortunate history of racism and discrimination in forces such as the Met. This isn't helped by corruption and cronyism (South Yorks, I'm looking at you again).

          On the whole, however, most police officers are decent people doing a difficult job, often dealing with violent and dangerous people, with a severe shortage of resources (thanks to Frau May and the economic fantasy of austerity put forward by our current Govt). Most people, when they report a crime, are met with a pleasant and understanding response (and this has been my experience), if the police actually have the resources to give one. However, if you happen to have a less pleasant interaction with a copper (for instance being arrested whilst drunk, or incorrectly accused of a crime), this is going to colour your perception of what they do. As I say, this isn't helped by historical racism and discrimination (now mostly, but sadly not entirely gone). At the end of the day, the police are just people too, with all the faults that other people have. I certainly wouldn't want to do their job for long, unsociable hours, dangerous work, and mediocre pay.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Police in court?

            I certainly wouldn't want to do their job for long, unsociable hours, dangerous work, and mediocre pay.

            I would agree that there's some big downsides (though round my way they appear to work office hours more than unsocial hours), but the pay, mediocre? Nope. Not bad pay, little or no risk of redundancy or dismissal, a bloody good pension scheme AND early retirement as standard.

            All the police officers I've personally had dealings with have been excellent, helpful and professional, but I take Jemma's experience as factual. For me, the real hazard and downside of being a decent police officer is the corrosive nature of the work. The "drip, drip, drip" belief that everybody is guilty of something. The exposure to the vile underbelly of society. Having to investigate some crimes that the majority of us can't even conceive. And then, thanks to a moderate number of bad apples, no thanks at all from half of the population.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Police in court?

      sorry if I sound a little bitter - just had a actinic keratinoma/basal cell carcinoma lasered out of arm, any contact with the local NHS always puts me on edge.

      Well, I'm sorry to hear about your suffering, and hope that all proceeds well. But why would you be bitter against the plods on account of the NHS trying to sort you out? I know we're talking about South Yorkshire police, (Motto: Est malum hoc facere) but I'm still not seeing the association?

  6. ritey

    And this is the real problem. Who is watching the watchers?

    1. Swarthy Silver badge

      And what are they watching from?

  7. Richard Pennington 1
    Black Helicopters

    Nothing to see here ...

    ... that the local drone enthusiasts haven't already put on YouTube.

  8. DaddyHoggy

    The police have started using Blackhawks?

    They have bigger budgets than I thought.

  9. alexlawriewood
    Thumb Up

    Hover coppers in todger spotter chopper bother

    That's all.

  10. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Look at the size

    of that chopper!

  11. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Whilst I myself don't partake...

    A police inspector friend of mine said that dogging, or any form of, err... outside sexual actvity is not actually illegal as long as those partaking had taken efforts to conceal themselves from general public view so as to not cause offense to any non-consenting 3rd parties. I'm sure there is more to it than that but he also stated that his particular police force had been directed to not enforce any public decency laws unless it was clear that they hadn't tried to actively conceal their activities from public view. The difference I guess being between doing it at midday in the middle of a supermarket car park, and at 1am in a secluded car park somwhere?

    These guys in the chopper... probably just having a wee perve on the public account when they should have been out catching real criminals - especially when considering the running costs of your standard helo.

  12. emmanuel goldstein

    So - pigs *DO* fly.

    On a serious note: why are they even given the budget to operate helicopters? they are eye-wateringly expensive to run and, in plod's hands, a complete waste of OUR money.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Because they are useful in some circumstances for catching criminals - i.e. it is safer to follow a getaway car in a chopper than in a high speed chase.

      Just tooling around in the chopper 'looking for crime' seems like a giant waste of money though, as well as something that could be obviously abused in this way to peek on unsuspecting people who assume they aren't being spied upon, or more likely peeking in on ex-wives, ex-girlfriends, daughters and other illegal surveillance.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    inappropriate filming

    you call it inappropriate, we call it a terrorist-related investigation...

  14. Teiwaz Silver badge

    Misconduct in Public Office?

    Could mean anything - they got off light.

  15. IainWR

    Ooh -police misbehave slightly, maybe. Problem??

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Legal or not... four and a half years after the alleged viewing to get to this point of them being prosecuted.. really? Wheels of justice sure turn slowly.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Four and a half years...

      The prosecutor had the DVD and wouldn't give it back..

  17. Roj Blake Silver badge


    And these are the people who will soon have access to your browsing history.

  18. The First Dave

    I can't believe I am the first to say: "Pics or it didn't happen" !

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