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Stop that man

A Conservative Member of Parliament was stopped and searched by police under anti-terrorism laws after he was found taking pictures of a cycle path. Andrew Pelling, MP for Central Croydon, was searched by police officers who thought he might be a terrorist, despite him showing his House of Commons pass when they asked for identification.

Mr Pelling had been taking pictures of the cycle lane at the junction of Addiscombe Road and Cherry Orchard Road and said his motive was to highlight the “long-neglected bicycle and pedestrian route”, which had been of concern to his constituents.

But, as police officers drove past they noticed his behaviour. Two officers then approached Mr Pelling and asked what he was doing as they believed he had been taking pictures of East Croydon train station. [Croydon Guardian]
Flailing, idiot attempts at antiterrorism legislation have led to the possibility of falling foul of law enforcement for taking pictures of a station. Brilliant. Good work, everyone.

Now, this does happen to be the Tory MP who was arrested in 2007 on suspicion of assaulting his pregnant wife, but the chances of the officers in this instance knowing that about him are almost zero—they didn’t know he was the local MP, for a start—and anyway, whatever else that would say about him, it would not make him a terrorist.

This incident is not, of course, what the politicians behind the legislation intended. Instead, it’s quite dumb policing “on the ground” but, crucially, the officers had been given the powers to be that dumb. As the government have excitedly churned out criminal justice and antiterrorism acts at a rate that has led to some aspects not even having been implemented before new legislation has supplanted them, they have often airily dismissed the “thin end of wedge” argument as hackneyed and discredited. However, this minor but unsettling incident points to a tangible slide in civil liberties. Even under the last Tory administration, the police would have been hard pressed to come up with an excuse for detaining and searching an MP for taking pictures in his constituency—other than “he was black”.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 8th, 2009 02:14 pm (UTC)
I have a photo of East Croydon station on my Flickr. I hope I haven't inspired any acts of terrorism.
Jan. 8th, 2009 02:36 pm (UTC)
not to mention being shipped across the country for peacefully going to a football match
Jan. 8th, 2009 02:46 pm (UTC)
Having been the subject of a similar S'n'S*, detailed at


I was unsurprised to see on BBC local news today that an artist was arrested and held in police custody for five hours yesterday for taking photos of that well-known sensitive location, the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre. No article on the website that I can find, but the main justification for his arrest seems to have been that he got lippy with the officer, in the mistaken belief that the police had no right to lock him up just because, er, they felt like it.

* No, not Joanna Lumley and David McCallum.
Jan. 8th, 2009 07:36 pm (UTC)
It looks like the law enforcer are the one -terrorizing- the citizens!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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