You couldn’t make it up

My pool picture ban over paedophile fears is a real headline from the Metro and tells the story of an 82year old woman who was stopped while taking pictures of an empty paddling pool on a common in Southhampton. A council employee told the widow to put her camera away because she might be a paedophile.

Of course she was in a public place and carrying out a perfectly legal act. Even if the pool had been swarming with children she would still have been within her legal rights to take photographs, although it would be a brave woman (and a much braver man) that would insist on those legal rights in the current perverted climate.

Although Southampton council have apologised,  they stated: ‘It is appropriate that our staff are aware of who is taking photos.’  This confuses the act of taking photographs (whether or not they include children) with a potential risk of sexual offending against children. In practice it seems rather unlikely that potential offenders will draw attention to themselves by using a camera in this way in a public place, and council staff would probably be more sensibly employed giving greater attention to any adults without cameras – and in particular those who loiter without cameras around where children play.

With or without a camera people can behave in ways that may be suspicious – approaching children, talking to them, following them etc, and although they may of course be perfectly innocent I think most of us would agree it a good idea if council workers and others kept an eye on their actions. But people in any position of authority, however slight, need proper training, and part of it should be to learn that photography in public places is not an offence and no more a suspicious activity than walking a dog – probably considerably less so given that many children are attracted to animals.

There is a poll (‘The Big Vote’) on the Metro page (at the right of the page) which asks readers to vote on whether they think the council worker’s action was over the top. I was flabbergasted to find when I voted that there was a whole 6% of people who didn’t.

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