In his blog, Turner gives a full account of being stopped by two men in Chatham High Street, after he took a picture of a fish bar called Mick's Plaice, which stands between Specsavers and a shop called Mr Flower and advertises jacket potatoes and an all day breakfast in a colour scheme of bold blue and white. The men said they worked for Medway Council.
"I saw a badge attached to one of the men's waistband and saw the logo of Kent Police. The men asked me why I was taking pictures in the High Street.
I told them photography was a hobby and explained what and who I had taken pictures of and why".
Turner continues, "I asked them under what authority they were making their request. They did not provide a clear answer to this question in that they failed to state the legal authority under which they were making their enquiries."
Because they neither stated their authority nor properly identified themselves, Turner refused to answer their questions. The men summoned uniformed police. Turner took photographs of two officers as they approached him reproduced with blurred faces on his blog – and arrest followed. He was handcuffed held in police van and then questioned by two plain clothes officers. "They spoke about the threat of terrorism. They were keen to seek my agreement with regards to the views they expressed, both about the threat of terrorism and the suspicious nature of people with cameras and especially those who chose not to provide identifying details about themselves when requested to do so."
He was searched while still handcuffed. The officer told him to take of his trainers and patted down the soles of his feet. At some point the officers made a veiled threat about Turner's ability to continue as photographer.
"Whilst sharing their views about the threat of terrorism officer xxxxx [name redacted] stated she had felt threatened by me when I took her picture. I cannot recall exactly what she said but I do recall her referring to my size and implying she found it intimidating at the time (I am 5ft 11in and weigh about 12 stone)."
Turner concludes with this, "I believe the way I was treated was unjustified and wholly disproportionate. I assert that officer xxxxx misused her powers of arrest and demonstrated a poor understanding of the law in relation to arrest, the use of force, the use of detention, photography in public places, obstruction and the ... Terrorism Act 2000. Furthermore I assert that officer xxxxx is unsuitable to act as a police officer or at the very least requires further training if she is intimidated by a male of an unremarkable stature taking a single picture with a camera pointed in her direction."
Clearly something has to be done about the police attitude to photography and filming. This week it was reported that Essex Police photographed residents who attended a peaceful meeting about the future of Southend Airport. The Lib Dem MP Norman Baker who attended the meeting likened the behaviour of the police to "Stasi like spying" and attacked the "gross intrusion into people's civil liberties". The images have subsequently been destroyed and the officer in charge sent a half penitent letter to the local newspaper. The police response underlines how important it is for the public to challenge the use of covert and overt surveillance of law abiding political activity.
In another development, the magazine Amateur Photographer, has sought to clarify whether police have the right to delete photographic images. The Metropolitan Police's guidance suggests that they have the power "to seize and retain any article found during a search that they reasonably suspect is intended to be used in connection with terrorism."
But Rupert Grey, a lawyer working for Swan Turton, one of the best new law firms, told the magazine, "This is correct as far as the powers conferred by section 44 are concerned. But the advice fails to point out that although film and memory cards may be seized as part of a search, officers do not have a legal power to delete images or to destroy film."
He added: "The Association of Chief Police Officers' practice advice on stop and search in relation to terrorism makes this clear; so do guidelines for MPS staff on dealing with media reporters, press photographers and television crews: "Once images are recorded, [the police] have no power to delete or confiscate them without a court order."
Despite being too tall, Alex Turner did not have his pictures deleted.
However, the offence to his rights as a law abiding citizen are shocking and he is due an apology. What is needed now is clear statement from the home secretary on the rights of photographers and the limits of police surveillance.