Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

I spotted another Streetwise installation

It’s a while since I spotted my first Streetwise surveillance camera setup, but now I’ve spotted my second.

This time it was on the Gallowgate, monitoring the junction at Bain Street, between Barrowland and Morrison’s.

This junction can get quite busy at times, and has the added complication of being on the exit route of a nearby fire station – if you look carefully at the Barrowland pic you can see the additional warning lights on the junction in the background.

There may be plans to change the road layout here, or alter the traffic lights.

We’ll see.

There was also a recent announcement about a refurbishment of the whole Barras area, which may be connected to this survey.

In each case the camera is at the top of the temporary pole visible on the left, with a data storage box attached at the bottom.

Gallowgate Streetwise Camera Barrowland

Gallowgate Streetwise Camera Barrowland


Gallowgate Streetwise Camera Morrisons

Gallowgate Streetwise Camera Morrisons

August 6, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography, Surveillance, Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

He’s behind me, isn’t he?

So, there I was, quietly eyeing up the next potential shot (just a photograph… this time), and that creepy “Somebody’s watching me” feeling arrives. Yet there’s almost nobody else around.

I look around, with a little more care, and sure enough, sitting at a window behind me, and watching carefully – one of feline overlords.

I grabbed a quick pic as I knew this character would disappear the moment it knew I was returning the favour, and watching back.

It’s not a good pic and doesn’t do this rather nice tortie justice, but the quick shot meant the camera focus locked on the nearest feature, in this case the left edge of the window, and refused to budge no matter what buttons I poked.

Tollcross Road Cat Watch

Tollcross Road Cat Watch

But what about the spooky hooded skull reflection?

I wonder if really was the cat that was watching me though.

Look just above its head and right ear – is that a hooded spectre?

Some would say it’s just a reflection (of a car wheel).

But it looks so much like a hooded skull – and that would better explain my feeling of unease.

I could have turned around and had a look…

If I had, I’d probably have seen him – and his pal:

Masked Camo Warriors

Masked Camo Warriors

Glad I didn’t turn around, and just kept on walking.

July 27, 2017 Posted by | photography, Surveillance | , , , | Leave a comment

Compare and contrast ‘camera offenders’

I just made a post expressing some concern over the circumstances of a man who was arrested for drink-driving, and ended being placed on the Sex Offenders Register for taking pictures in public places, albeit while under the influence of drink.

Although he did not commit any actual offence (he foolishly admitted a Breach of the Peace (basically acknowledged to be a catch-all if no actual charge exists), or break any laws, he was also handed a 5 year camera ban.

Photography can be risky in the UK – just having a camera might get you into trouble

But only a few hours later I read news of someone who was clearly doing something ‘wrong’, with covert cameras hidden in toilets, and some 700 videos obtained using secret ‘filming’:

A finance director at Glasgow’s biggest social landlord hid spy-cams in the toilets at his workplace to secretly film colleagues.

Mark Logan, 48, walked free from Glasgow Sheriff Court despite admitting to secretly filming almost 700 videos including hundreds in the Wheatley Group office toilets between May 2015 and May 2016.

Logan, of Tweedsmuir Crescent in Bearsden, East Dunbartonshire, also pleaded guilty to a separate charge of sexual assault when he appeared at court in March this year.

When confronted about the videos he told bosses: “I am ashamed, I have been bottling it up for 20 years and don’t want to be gay.”

Logan, who has been placed on the sex offenders register, planted the cameras in digital clocks at the firm’s head office on Cochrane Street where he was employed until the recording devices were found last year.

The court heard Logan, who no longer works at the firm, also carried out the crime while on business trips to Edinburgh and London by filming colleagues against their knowledge.

In one video, he could be seen putting a device at the bedside table of one of his victims.

Via: Finance director secretly filmed workmates on toilet

Covert Digital Clock Camera

Covert Digital Clock Camera

As I noted in the first post, as regards the first case I mentioned…

But, I’m sorry, I don’t really see the problem with his video, taken in a public place.

Yet this second case has NO QUESTION regarding deliberate intent, planning, and clearly involved secret or covert ‘filming’…

His actions were not carried out in public, he was not even (as the first was said to be) ‘Under the influence’, and he was not doing anything that could, in any way, be said to be legitimately claimed to fall under Photographer’s Rights in the UK, or I suspect in most countries.

Yet the accused “walked free”.

This really does make the first case I mentioned look like even more of farce than it did a few hours ago, and more one of prudes or the ‘morally affronted’ making an example of someone that they think should taught a lesson.


May 9, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography, Surveillance | , , , | Leave a comment

Photography can be risky in the UK – just having a camera might get you into trouble

In a world where we are surrounded by people constantly taking pics and recording video with their smartphones, not to mention the pervasive sea of public and private surveillance cameras and CCTV we navigate as soon as we step into the street – and now the rise and rise of the dashcam – it’s almost strange that any sort of photographer with a camera STILL seems to be fair game for being picked on.

While anyone simply holding a smartphone could easily be taking covert pics and video without it being obvious, and probably not even be noticed, it’s still the person who chooses to take a step up in quality and control and use a ‘real’ (by which I mean an obviously recognisable item such as a dSLR, mirrorless, or even compact) camera who is seen as the ‘problem’.

Previous accounts have had hired thugs security staff state that they view anyone with such a camera as a ‘professional’ who they will challenge if they are seen pointing a camera in their direction, or toward the building/property they are guarding. Past cases have shown they will confront ‘photographers’, even if on public land (the street) and restrain them, even calling police to attend to a ‘suspected terrorist’ or some such nonsense. The police SHOULD be called, but by the photographer who has been assaulted by those hired thugs.

This was brought back to my mind in the media coverage of a man (often described as a ‘pensioner’, as if that was somehow relevant):

A man was caught using a video camera to film women and children at a busy shopping centre last summer, a court has heard.

John Kane, 67, recorded footage of more than 60 women in the Central Retail Park in Graham’s Road, Falkirk, and at a nearby Tesco store.

He also secretly filmed children playing outside a nearby branch of Next.

When Kane was arrested on a separate matter he tried to flush a memory card down a toilet, prosecutor Ann Orr told Falkirk Sheriff Court.

The card was analysed and found to contain 60 short videos, lasting between 50 seconds and three minutes.

Ms Orr told the court: “The recordings appeared to be of adult females at various shops in the Central Retail Park.

“The camera operator has the camera positioned to show the females from the waist down, focusing on their bare legs and zooming in on their bottoms.”

The depute fiscal said the memory card also contained three slightly longer videos, each about three minutes, showing children aged between six and 12.

It should also be noted he was not arrested or detained for this, but:

The court heard Kane was caught when he was arrested over a drink-driving offence and taken to Falkirk Police Station in July 2016.

It was then he tried to dispose of the memory card, which was recovered by officers who spotted him acting suspiciously.

Source: Man secretly filmed women and children at retail park – STV News 16 February 2017

Pensioner secretly filmed women’s legs – BBC News 17 February 2017

So it appears he was drinking, and acted inappropriately.

But, I’m sorry, I don’t really see the problem with his video, taken in a public place.

Go onto sites such as Flickr and you’ll find the same material being shared around the world, and not classified as ‘unsafe’ or similar.

As always, I don’t want – and can’t – go into the specifics of this particular case, as I was not in court and am not privy to all the evidence and information available to the court and those involved. All I know of is the limited information provided by the media.

However, like the accounts given by the media in similar cases, I actually find myself worried almost every time I raise my camera to my eye, and consciously survey the scene firstly for children, and then for anything that I may be accused of taking ‘secret’ or ‘covert’ pics of.

If I see anything that worries me, I’ll move on or find another location to avoid any misunderstanding.

I’m not a great ‘people’ photographer anyway, preferring vacant scenes, but now I’m beginning to think this preference may have saved me trouble in the past.

Here’s the development of the case against the man concerned, as I waited until the conclusion.

He’s not only been placed on the Sex Offender’s Register (for taking pics in a public place) but also banned from having ANY camera equipment for a period of five years. He also admitted committing a Breach of the Peace – a charge also known as a ‘catch all’ when there is no specific charge to be made.

Kane, of Breton Court, Falkirk, pleaded guilty to committing a breach of the peace by operating a recording device to obtain footage of women and children in a public place without their knowledge and consent between July 15 and 22, 2016.


Where is there a law or requirement in the UK for that consent to be obtained (in a public place, and not for someone like a film star or actor whose image is their livelihood, and potentially copyright or similarly protected)?

Man who filmed women and children’s legs faces camera ban – STV News 30 March 2017

Camera ban for pensioner who secretly filmed women’s legs – BBC News 4 May 2017

As I said, I can only really repeat media reporting as I was not in court, but this case, like many others against ‘photographers’ stinks.

Am I guilty of something?

It reminded me of a pic I created a while ago, and used for a bit of fun in a Forum discussion.

Thin and Thick girls

Thin and Thick

To explain, I didn’t TAKE this pic, but actually created it some time later.

It’s a crop of one corner of the original pic, taken of the street or road that was the subject, and in which this pair happened to be walking at the time it was taken. I didn’t really notice them, merely waited until the minimum number of bodies was probably present, then took the pic.

I didn’t feel any need, or legal obligation to run after them (or anyone else caught by chance in a pic) and ask for their consent to take the pic, or ask their permission to use it later.

See this guide – I didn’t, and don’t, think I have to… EVER!

UK Photographers Rights Guide v2

But since the above was not the picture I took, but merely one sixth of it, caught purely incidentally, I wouldn’t have done so anyway.

That I could produce later this from a small crop from a larger image is entirely down to the fact that my camera has a sensor that enables such an operation.

They are wearing long coat, jeans, trousers, boots. ‘Decent’, to some.

Had they had been wearing short skirts and had bare legs? ‘Indecent’, to some.

Would I now be being traced by the police as a pervert (even though it came from a crop and was not the pic taken) and face being fined for a Breach of the Peace (per the reasons invented above) AND placed on the Sex Offenders Register?


Would, or could, I become a major criminal of some sort merely by cropping out a small section of a picture I took, and only perhaps escape that fate due to some chance decision by those in the pic on what they chose to wear that day?

Not even a problem abroad

By coincidence, I spotted this post with advice to photographers, from a non-UK blog, where there ARE often more restrictions, but even this states:

8. Don’t Ask Permission
Like I said before, as long as you in the scoop of the law, there’s nothing to worry about. Just do it. Take your camera and shoot. Don’t think that you have to ask the local or anything like that for permission. If you want to photograph some face close-up, then just do it. Don’t ask, do it.

9. Don’t Apologize
Sometime there will be some people don’t like when you photograph something. Don’t apologize. You obey the law, what you did isn’t illegal. So you did nothing wrong, and there’s nothing to apologize for.

For example, let’s take a look at what happen in London. If you’re a photographer, especially architecture photographer, its (sic) really hard to take photograph of architecture. Because the treat of terrorism. They’re not allowed to photograph, they’re demanded to delete their photos, and sometime cops called. It’s not illegal to photograph building, but many photographer there been in trouble because of it. So if that happen to you just show them you’re photograph and if they ask you to delete it, then say no. You did nothing wrong.

From: 10 Thing You Never Do In Photography

May 9, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography, Surveillance | , , , | Leave a comment

Polar bear webcam goes live at Highland Wildlife Park

It’s nice to be able to see the polar bears having a bath at the Highland Wildlife Park, but I think their new webcam is actually more interesting.

Using similar techniques to those employed by the military in remote locations, the webcam is powered by a combination of solar and wind power, backed up by a 3-day battery, and connected to the Internet via a broadband satellite link to keep the picture coming.

For the moment, the video is only live from the morning through to the afternoon, but they keep things interesting by looping recorded video when the live stream is not available.

More on the background here: Highland Wildlife Park installs polar bear webcam – The Scotsman

And the webcam can be found here: Highland Wildlife Park ● Polar Bear Webcam

Polar bear family

Polar bear family – we see you (are you lunch?)

Below is a previous pic of the bears and their pool: Walker (R) the polar bear meets with new male companion Arktos at the Highland Wildlife Park on April 9, 2012 in Kingussie, Scotland. Arktos arrived from Hannover Zoo in Germany on April 4 to be a companion to the Park’s resident polar bear Walker. A year older than Walker and slightly larger, Arktos is four-years-old and it’s hoped that the bears will establish a relationship of friendly competitiveness.

May 6, 2014 Posted by | Surveillance | , , , | Leave a comment

Does a Neighbourhood Watch with no watchers actually work?

I had to follow a slightly different path during one of my recent wanders, as the gates to a station on the route were tied shut. When I got closer I could some busy men working away on platform – but due to the lie of the land I couldn’t see what the were doing as they were above me since the road passed below the station.

But I did notice something I hadn’t spotted before, the Neighbourhood Watch warning sign shown below, attached to lamppost on the station’s perimeter:

Neighbourhood Watch sign

Neighbourhood Watch sign

I have to admit, this one left me more than a little puzzled.

After all, one of the things you need for a neighbourhood watch to work is… watchers!

In this particular case, a look to north from near this sign shows:

Neighbourhood Watch North

Looking North

To the south:

Neighbourhood Watch South

Looking South

To the east:

Neighbourhood Watch East

Looking East

And finally to the west, with the path to the station above, which is an unmanned station, and the lamppost with the sign attached:

Neighbourhood Watch West

Looking West

To be fair, this is a little tongue-in-cheek, and while there is nobody here, and few people to see that sign (I seldom see anyone else when I walk here), the actual area it covers is that of Broomhouse, for which you can find more details here:

Scheme detail- Broomhouse

Broomhouse Community Council

March 10, 2014 Posted by | Civilian, Surveillance | , , | 2 Comments

Rats on Rum should get SatNav rather than GPS


While I wouldn’t normally advocate the extinction of any species, I do sometimes wonder about rats, which (if wild) appear to have no real purpose other than to harbour (and spread) various diseases (and other problems) which are detrimental to the human race. They don’t seem to offer any benefits to fauna around them either

I found rather ironic to read that one rat was to fitted with a GPS collar, designed to allow it to be tracked, now that rats have arrived on the Isle of Rum, probably after they managed to get there by jumping onto visiting boats.

Brown rats are recent colonists to the island and probably arrived on boats.

As on all offshore islands where rats have jumped ship, they have an adverse effect on native species.

This study is examining the significance of the Rum rats on the globally important Rum shearwater population.

Under the work one pioneering rodent has been fitted with a rat global positioning system (GPS) to track its movements over the coming weeks.

It is hoped results will be in by the end of February.

Lesley Watt, the SNH Rum reserve officer, said understanding rat behaviour was vital to assess their likely impacts on Manx shearwaters and other species.

She added: “Rats are thought to be responsible for numerous global seabird population declines through predation on eggs, chicks and adult birds, though historically they have not been thought to have an impact on the Rum Cuillin colony.

“But we are concerned that rat numbers and predation may increase in the future. So we need to know more about the ecology of the rats to inform our future management policy for this globally import Manx shearwater breeding site.

“We are all intrigued about what we’ll find out when our roaming rat data is analysed and we view the results.”

The rat-related work is part of a three-year Magnus Magnusson PhD studentship, funded by SNH and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

Via Isle of Rum rat journey to be tracked on satellite – The Scotsman

The study is important, as the effect of foreign species, be they flora or fauna, can often be surprising and destructive if unchecked.

Why SatNav?

Given the theme of this story, when I saw the headline I formed a mental image of the rat population of Rum being provided with SatNav, in the hope that they would behave in the same way as some mindless zombie drives seem to when presented with the attractive display and seductive female voice giving turn-by-turn navigation instructions.

Picture the scene, as the Head Rat is carefully guided off the nearest cliff by his SatNav (after asking for directions to the nearest rat party) – and the rest of the follow his lead.

Navigation Tracker

Navigation Tracker




February 3, 2014 Posted by | Civilian, Surveillance | , , , | Leave a comment

Clueless security

Security search

I’ve often wondered about some of the silly stories told by those who have to deal with security on a regular basis, and whether or not they’re being exaggerated.

I’m not wondering quite as much now.

I’ve spent a week or so wandering in and out of an establishment where (serious) security is in place, mainly to stop weapons being carried into the building. Physical searches are rare, with metal detectors being in use, both walk-through, and hand-held. Those of us with passes don’t have to be checked – unless we meet untrained staff.

At the end of the first week I was entering as usual, showing my privileged pass, but a confused guard couldn’t understand it, and redirected me to the metal detectors. Since I knew quite a few items I was carrying would trigger the detectors, I declared them, unfortunately, this meant having to empty my pockets, which was bad news since most of it was a tight fit, and one item got stuck. This took so long to get free, the second guard woke up and asked where I was headed, and rechecked my pass. He told me I should have gone through the other door, and told me just to go there. I agreed, but pointed at the first guard who had sent me to the detectors,  and he shook his head and just waved me through the arch, with all my stuff in hand. This set the detector off, but at least he expected it, and made sure I wasn’t detained.

A bit silly, and down to one member of the security staff who was probably not properly trained to recognise the various types of pass, so not their fault, but their employer.

Whenever I have a security hiccup, I always think of the shocked look on the face of one security guard in a large semiconductor plant. Unusually, we were carefully searched  just before we left the factory. When he spotted a very small laptop in my case, he almost had kittens and asked if had been seen when I arrived (I had no idea, but security should have seen since my case was checked). He asked me to leave quickly and quietly, otherwise he’s lose his job!

February 2, 2014 Posted by | Surveillance | , | Leave a comment

UAV flights in Scotland 2003-2013

I received an odd nudge to go look at Hansard for July 18, 2013, “You might see something interesting.”

Being a glutton for punishment, I duly trawled through a number of pages, fought off the urge to fall asleep, then came across a question on UAVs, which I guess was where I was supposed to look.

The question was asked of the UK, but this includes Scotland, so we got our little bit of info from the same pot:

Mr Watson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Gillingham and Rainham of 15 May 2013, Official Report, column 221W, on unmanned aerial vehicles, on how many occasions flights of unmanned aerial vehicles have taken place in each of his Department’s reserved airspace areas within the UK in each of the last 10 years; what the purpose of each such flight was; and what type of unmanned aerial vehicle was flown on each such occasion. [R] [166283]

The reply was fairly comprehensive, as follows (I’ve highlighted the relevant line):

Mr Robathan: Available information on the number and location of flights of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), either on the military register or operating under a military flight test permit, in each of the last 10 years, is provided in the following table:

UAV type Number of flights Location Purpose
2003-06 Phoenix (1) (1) (1)
2004 Buster (2) Larkhill Trials
2006 Scan Eagle 22 Hebrides Range Capability Demonstration
2009 Desert Hawk III 126 Salisbury Plain Trials and Training
2010 Desert Hawk III 184 Salisbury Plain, Stanford, Otterburn Training and conversion to Role
Watchkeeper 11 West Wales Airport Trials
2011 Desert Hawk III 564 Salisbury Plain, Stanford, Otterburn Training
Watchkeeper 83 West Wales Airport Trials and Training
Tarantula-Hawk 3 Thorney Island Training
2012 Desert Hawk III 1,180 Salisbury Plain Training
Watchkeeper 129 West Wales Airport Trials and Training
Tarantula-Hawk 11 Thorney Island Training
Scan Eagle 5 South Coast Exercise Area Trials
2013 Desert Hawk III 555 Salisbury Plain, Stanford, Otterburn Training
Watchkeeper 6 West Wales Airport French Army Training
Watchkeeper 77 West Wales Airport Trials and Training
Black Hornet (3)n/a Lydd Camp, Lossiemouth, Salisbury Plain(4) Training

(1) The Phoenix Unmanned Air System, which retired from service in 2006, was flown in UK airspace. Records of the number, location and purpose of Phoenix sorties are no longer centrally available and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. (2) Records of the number of Buster sorties are no longer centrally available and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. (3) Because of the way Black Hornet is used the number of sorties and flying hours are not recorded. (4) The locations identified are the primary areas in which Black Hornet has been operated. Because of the weight and size of the air vehicle and the height at which it operates, under Military Aviation Authority regulations there is no requirement to limit flights to segregated airspace.

Via House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 18 July 2013 (pt 0007)

Of 2,948 recorded flights (certain types were not recorded) , only 22 took place on the Hebrides Range, and those were class as Capability Demonstration flights.


The UAV type is given as the Boeing ScanEagle (there is no space in the name, incorrectly shown in the Hansard table). The Royal Navy received its first unmanned ‘eye in the sky’ in a £30 million contract with Boeing to supply the ScanEagle reconnaissance aircraft. Built by Insitu, a subsidiary of Boeing Defence UK Limited, the ScanEagle is the first maritime-specific unmanned air system capability to be delivered in support of naval operations. The pilotless plane has been used by the US Navy over the past decade and has been trialled by the Royal Navy, aboard frigate HMS Sutherland back in 2006.

ScanEagle has a wingspan of just over 3 metres (10 ft), a weight of 22 kg (48 lb), and is launched from a pneumatic catapult.

ScanEagle Launch

ScanEagle Launch – Boeing image via MoD web site

The UAV flies at about 60 knots and is piloted by a specialist team on board the ship who plan its missions, control its flights, and monitor and analyse the information it gathers using its sensors, which includes a video or infra-red camera. Data is transmitted to the team, including real-time high-resolution images, via a satellite link.


ScanEagle – Boeing image via MoD web site

It can remain airborne some 15 to 18 hours at distances of more than 70 miles from the mother ship. Boeing information on their web site indicates that later designs will substantially increase these figures.


ScanEagle – Boeing image via MoD web site

Once the mission has been completed, the UAV returns to the ship where it is captured by being flown into a cable hung vertically from an extendible arm, and is caught by hooks located at the end of each wing. It is then grappled by a recovery device and lifted on board.

ScanEagle Recovery

ScanEagle Recovery – Boeing image via MoD web site

September 6, 2013 Posted by | Aviation, military, Naval, Surveillance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smart meters – maybe not so smart

You may already have read about ‘smart metering technology’ being installed in all homes across the UK from 2014 onwards, with every home expected to have smart metering installed by 2019. This might slip if funding is not readily available, but that seems to be the current timescale.

Smart metering allows two-way information exchange between energy users and suppliers, providing real-time (almost) information about supply and demand at the individual user level, allowing the level of that supply and demand to be accurately determined on a moment-to-moment basis. According to the Government, smart metering will slash unnecessary energy use, reduce emissions, and cut consumers’ energy bills.

But, it seems there’s a problem, and nobody’s telling us about it.

Researchers have found that the meters can monitor users’ consumption at intervals of only 2 seconds, which is far too frequent for their intended purpose.

Worse, this rapid high-resolution sampling makes it possible to analyse the consumption and identify what equipment is being used in the users’ home – and this can lead to an invasion of privacy as it reveals people’s habits, preferences, and even whether or not the home is occupied. I found the explanation of this (and the weakness which was used to exploit it) particularly interesting, since a similar discussion I took part in about five years ago concluded that this could not be done. However, technology and analytical techniques have moved on, and I have to say I am impressed with what can be done  now, and the level of detail that a ‘simple’ consumption monitoring exercise can provide.

It has to be said that a simple change to the metering could also defeat quite a lot of this – if the manufacturers were to incorporate such a thing, which would degrade the operation of the device (without affecting its claimed purpose), so I doubt they will.

They also found they could send false detail to the supplier – in other words, users could falsify their consumption.

Particularly worrying was their finding that all security techniques which were supposed to be in place were not, or could be easily circumvented – and the data being sent to and from the smart meter was not encrypted, so anyone with reasonable skills could intercept it.

We currently lack any robust privacy and data requirements in the UK for this technology.

Professor in security engineering at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory (Ross Anderson) has said that the Government’s smart meter plans are “set to become another public sector IT disaster”.

Technically, it does not take the greatest leap in imagination to see how such insecure devices could become a disaster  if hackers were able to break into a ‘head-end’ hub where smart metering data may be collated, and from where they could cut the supply of energy across  millions of households. Deploying these meter across the World – once developed, the same technology is mass-produced, and standardised – would see hundreds of millions of the devices installed in Europe (and North America apparently) with each having a remotely controlled ‘Off switch’, remote software updating, each becomes a rather alarming point of vulnerability in every home.

Anderson and Fuloria’s paper on the vulnerabilities of smart meter technology (6-page / 119KB PDF)

There is also a video presentation (but it’s hard going, as the guys are not used to speaking in public, but the slides speak for them):

January 8, 2012 Posted by | Civilian, Surveillance | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000 arrives in Scotland (MAYBE!!!)

Police stop(I originally picked up on this story because I had noted a number of previous accounts which had largely taken place down south, or were local and seemed ridiculous.

This story seems to be developing the smell of bull, with so many accusations of persecution and victimisation of the man concerned, and his own highlighting of past mental problems – and adding that as yet another issue for which he is being victimised, that I have serious concerns about the original claims.)

When I was a little more active in photography in places where, shall we say ‘care’ had to be taken, I started to pay attention to cases involving the use of Sections 43 and 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. Although neither section refers in any way to any aspect of photography, their wording is sufficiently general that almost anything can be construed to be covered by the act.

Section 43 refers to the search of persons, and begins:

(1) A constable may stop and search a person whom he reasonably suspects to be a terrorist to discover whether he has in his possession anything which may constitute evidence that he is a terrorist.

Section 44 refers to the relevant Authorisations, stating where and when a constable in uniform may stop and search a vehicle or person.

The Act may be viewed online here:

Terrorism Act 2000

Father allegedly questioned under Terrorism Act after taking photographs of his own daughter in Braehead Shopping Centre

A story has been reported regarding the case of a father who photographed his four-year old daughter in the Braehead Shopping Centre near Glasgow.

After taking two photographs of his daughter enjoying an ice-cream treat on Friday afternoon (which he said were specifically framed to avoid including anyone else in their view), he has claimed that a security guard approached him, asked him to delete the photographs, and said they were ‘illegal’. However, as the images had been taken using a mobile phone, and been posted on Facebook, this was pointless.

At this point, the guard told him to “Remain right there” while he called the police, which the father chose to do.

He was subsequently questioned by two uniformed police officers who informed him there had been a complaint about his photography, and that the Braehead centre had “Clear signs” which stated that photography was forbidden.

He went on to state that he felt intimidated by the officers throughout the interview, and that when he tried to calm his daughter, who had been reduced to tears, one of the officers intervened, stating that he was not listening to him.

He says he was also told that under the terms of the Terrorism Act 2000 the police could confiscate his mobile phone and delete the images, but that in this occasion would not do so – provided he supplied his full details.

Since the incident, the father has lodged complaints with both Braehead Shopping Centre and Strathclyde Police.

STV Glasgow and West has published their initial response:

Superintendent George Nedley of Renfrewshire and Inverclyde Division said: “I can confirm that police were asked to speak to this gentleman by security staff at Braehead on Friday October 7.

“My officers attended and gave advice and no further action was taken by the police officers.

“I can confirm we have received a complaint regarding this incident and one of my senior officers has spoken to Mr White regarding this. As a result a full review of the circumstances surrounding the incident and the allegations made is under way.”

A spokesman for Braehead said: “Staff at an ice cream stall in Braehead became suspicious and alerted a member of the centre’s security staff after they saw a male shopper taking photographs at their counter.

“The member of security staff approached the man and politely asked if he had been taking photographs. Because of the nature of the incident, police became involved and also spoke to the man.

“Our priority is always to maintain a safe and enjoyable environment for all of our shoppers and retailers. The member of our security staff acted in good faith.

“We have a ‘no photography’ policy in the centre to protect the privacy of staff and shoppers and to have a legitimate opportunity to challenge suspicious behaviour if required. However, it is not our intention to – and we do not – stop innocent family members taking pictures.”

Shopping centre guard calls police over father taking ‘illegal’ photographs of his daughter | Glasgow and West | STV News.


I don’t really want to comment on the circumstance around the incident itself (and I was not there in any case), as there may be further reports to come, for example, a review by the police is mentioned.

However, I do think it is worth pointing out that the response made by Braehead seems to fall into the category of “Making it up as we go along”. Specifically, if they really do have a ‘no photography’ policy in the centre, then they cannot state that it is not their intention to “stop innocent family members taking pictures.”

This is inconsistent, and simply does not make any sense.

Clearly, if this was not little more than a lie, then the centre’s own security would have seen that the father had only taken two pictures of his own daughter alone, which would appear to meet their own basic requirement of “innocent family members taking pictures”, and the matter of the police being called would simply never have arisen.

You can also search this Blog to find some recent articles on this subject in relation to abuse of photographers by the police, including numbers of incidents as revealed by a Freedom of Information request: Stop and Search under the Terrorism Act 2000.

There is also an article which covers a statement issued by the police stating that they had listened to criticisms of heavy-handedness with regard to the treatment photographers under this Act, and that procedures were being modified accordingly: Section 44 abuse of photographers continues despite warnings to police.

Maybe that memo still has to be issued north of the border.

Follow-up controversy and dispute

When I first posted on this report, I didn’t like the ‘smell’ of the story – something didn’t quite gel, or sound ‘right’, although I couldn’t put my finger on it from the available information in the media.

Accordingly, I wrote relatively carefully, and avoided endorsing it, so was careful to use words like ‘allegedly’ liberally, and added an initial comment distancing even this from the circumstances of the incident, and referred to my past notes regarding Section 43/44 and the wider issues previously covered largely down south.

Unfortunately, it seems my nasal radar was not mistaken, and the warning signs detected in the initial story have proven correct.

While it appears that the part played by Braehead is honourably concluded, and they have not apologised to the father for the incident, but gone on to change and clarify their policy on photography to make it clear that families can take photographs not only in Braehead, but in other centres owned by the group.

However, there is now an acrimonious dispute between the father and the police, with the father insisting he was interviewed with regard to photography and terrorism, while the police have issued a statement denying that this was the case, and that officers were called to speak to him about another issue.

Unlike those who have rallied around the father in response to the publicity he has sought online, I am not prepared to accept his account without question. Nor am I prepared to go with the ‘all police are liars’ brigade.

Rather, since I started this post, I will post links to the stories as the appear in the media, and hope they reach a conclusion, which I will accept in either party’s favour…

Strathclyde Police – Statement re incident at Braehead, 7 October 2011

Shopping centre guard calls police over father taking ‘illegal’ photographs of his daughter | Glasgow and West | STV News October 10, 2011

Braehead apologises to father at centre of ice-cream storm | Glasgow and West | STV NewsOctober 10, 2011

BBC News – Father’s anti-terror row over photoOctober 10, 2011

BBC News – Row over photo in shopping centreOctober 10, 2011

BBC News – Braehead centre issues apology over photo rowOctober 19, 2011

BBC News – Braehead shopping centre owner changes UK photographs policyOctober 11, 2011

BBC News – Police hit back at Braehead photo row dad Chris WhiteOctober 13, 2011

Police say Braehead photo row father complaint ‘has no basis’ | Glasgow and West | STV NewsOctober 13, 2011 – Home of the Daily and Sunday Express | UK News :: Photo row father to sue policeOctober 14, 2011

Shopping trip father denies being drunk – Herald Scotland | News | Home NewsOctober 15, 2011

October 9, 2011 Posted by | Civilian, photography, Surveillance | , | 2 Comments

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