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Arrest that Photographer! He Could be a Paedophile!

Posted on Thursday, September 10, 2009 in civil liberties, News

Our over-inflated fears about terrorism and paedophilia are continuing to attach themselves to photography and photographers, for reasons which still don’t make any sense to me:


An ugly incident marred this year’s International Birdman competition. As thousands watched human-powered flying machines being launched from Worthing pier, a man took some photographs of children on the promenade west of the Lido.

Fortunately a concerned citizen spotted him and alerted one of the event’s stewards, who immediately called the police. They were on the spot within seconds, according to Sharon Clarke, Worthing’s town centre manager. “What it showed was that with everyone working together, things can be stopped immediately,” a reassuring thought for the anxious readers of the Sussex-wide evening paper, The Argus, which led its front page on the outrage.

Officers arrested the offender and seized his camera. They then contacted Suffolk police, who searched the man’s home in Ipswich and took away computer data. So far, there seems no reason to suppose that anything untoward was found, but a Home Office laboratory is to conduct an in-depth examination of the material that was impounded.

It’s a strange world we live in when taking innocuous shots of children in a festival crowd can be presumed to be evidence of paedophilia. Of course it doesn’t mean that wasn’t the case, but the fact that it should be the initial presumption is just bizarre. It’s another symptom of the social malaise which led to the creation of the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA), with its free hand to make such presumptions without hard evidence of anyone in jobs which may involve contact with anyone the ‘authority’ deems ‘vulnerable’. Which came first, the Home Office’s pushing ‘protection’ as a solution, without a significant problem, or are these fears about paedophilia a reflection of other insecurities in society? We need to understand the causes of this moral panic in order to stop it and stop demonising an increasing number of innocent adults.


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  1. Mark says:

    Very worrying, the presumption of guilt and the extent of reaction.

    By that logic do all CCTV operators have to undergo CRB checks in case they point the camera at a child?

    I read recently of a chap who was spotted a child who fell whilst running ahead of his or her mother. The mother wasn’t paying attention, the chap felt compelled to rush to the aid of the child but fought back his natural instinct to help lest he be looked at with suspicion and as this incident suggests, unleash a world of trouble on himself.

  2. james says:

    Great site Jason. Only sorry I’m not getting much chance to comment yet. However, one quick point. I don’t see author names on individual entries?

  3. admin says:

    At the moment it’s just me. I’m just finishing off some layout tweaks before the next 3 authors come on board, which should show some changes soon.

    I’m glad you like the site! And as you might have hoped, I’m rolling out the ISA commentary today, and will be continuing the pro-photographers/photography coverage this afternoon.

  4. Rock_Bottom says:

    This is almost exactly what happened to me – only in my case it was someone else taking photographs on my camera. Now I’m waiting for the ISA to determine whether I pose a risk to children or not. The police have already determined that I don’t, because I hadn’t done anything wrong… does anyone else want to try and clutch at straws or pass off the decision-making responsibility to someone else?

  5. admin says:

    I have spoken with many photographers, many of whom are friends on Flickr, who have quite innocently done the exact same thing, and been stopped and searched by community ‘support’ officers, who made it clear they thought they were paedophiles and demanded to know their intentions and to see their photos. Particularly as tourists it was only dumb luck they weren’t arrested. When did protection turn into paranoia exactly?

  6. [...] news, police attacks and surveillance of journalists in public order and ridiculous fears of pedophilia affecting the right to document news and the world around us. The battle between the photographic [...]

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