Blame the culprit -

not the victim

A few weeks ago there was a news item covering the way in which a bus driver had refuse to help a disabled passenger on to a bus. The bus driver was sacked.

The film saw him holding something up to hide his face as soon as he realised that he had been caught by the camera red handed. He was intent on trying to hide his identity.

Just recently, a train passenger was treated to the same sort of discrimination by the guard. Once again the culprit was caught red handed by the passenger. The difference this time was that the guard was caught clearly issuing threats to the passenger. The entire video clip may be seen at this web address:

Here is a still from the clip. It shows the guard pointing his instrument at the disabled person as he threatens him about using the camera. He evidently believes that he can threaten people in this way. All he has to do is tell the one with the camera that it is illegal.

Fortunately, more and more people are cottoning on to the fact that we live in a parliamentary democracy and our Parliament has never passed such a law.

The reason that it all became noticeable was the way the culprits reacted when caught red handed by a camera. Both became aggressive and threatening as they tried to stop the cameras being used. This is entirely typical. Of course, these two passengers were using their cameras quite legitimately - no threats of harassment.

It's rather like when a policeman gives an errant driver a ticket. It doesn't make for a happy driver but neither is it harassment. Being upset is no excuse at all for blaming the one with the camera.

"if we call the police they will take your mobile off you".

This new evidence appeared in the follow up story in the Manchester Evening News (MEN). The above quote is what allegedly was said. It is noteworthy that it was a train official and not a police officer, though it was common a few years ago for police officers to intimidate hapless citizens by claiming that using a camera was an offence.

It is true that you might beat someone to death with a camera and that would be an offence, but not under the Protection against Harassment Act.

If you are told by police that taking pictures is an offence then remain calm and do not try to win a clever argument with the officer. Think how you would feel if some smart alec told you that you were wrong. Ask politely what law you have broken. Remaining calm is a good way of remembering exactly what the answer was.

If the answer does not mention harassment then you are safe. There is no law against simply taking a photograph in a public place. Providing you can clearly remember what was said then the officer has not a leg to stand on. If the answer does mention harassment then you are still almost home and dry.

For an offence to have been committed by taking a photograph in a public place one must have deliberately set out to cause fear or anxiety in the subject. The subject has to satisfy a court that they were genuinely in fear. That is not easy. If the anxiety created is the result of committing an offence on camera then you are still home and dry. If the photograph was taken in the course of detecting an offence that is specifically provided for in the Act.

If the subject simply is disinclined to be photographed because it may be used against them, that is not fear or anxiety. They might be embarassed by an "affair" leaking out but it is still not an offence. Blackmail is an offence but that is a different law. There is a lot of hooie talked about taking pictures in public.

There is even more protection than that given above. When the Law Lords saw how wide open the Harassment Act was to abuse they announced that it must not be used to suppress freedom of speech, nor to suppress peaceful protest or demonstration. So if one is conducting a peaceful demonstration it must not be curtailed because of harassment. As Britons in Britain we have that inalienablle right.

Moreover, we have the Human Rights Act which transcends harassment and is internationally recognised and agreed.

In summary, if harassment is mentioned then you ought to be on safe ground providing that you are conducting a peaceful protest (Law Lords), or exercising freedom of speech (Law Lords, HRA), catching offenders (Harassment Act), or telling the "substantial truth" (Libel), or doing something so innocent that a court would not think that the complaint was genuine. With this sort of protection one is not nearly so vulnerable to a miscarriage of justice.

Some, or any, of these reasons given below may be used to allege that there is an offence because someone has felt very ill at the sight of this event. It is nothing to do with a camera but sometimes the camera gets a pasting.

  • stepping on a slug
  • brestfeeding a baby on a bus
  • tying a shoelace in broad daylight
  • being present when an old man dies in the street from a heart attack>
  • lying in the sun fully clothed
  • singing out of tune
  • taking photographs
  • walking a dog on a lead

There is nothing to measure whether the"feeling" is genuine or just a grudge complaint. On the other hand, if there is a grudge then the complainants might be lying their heads off.

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