An ugly incident marred this year's International Birdman competition. As thousands watched human-powered flying machines being launched from Worthing pier, a man took some photographs of children on the promenade west of the Lido.
Fortunately a concerned citizen spotted him and alerted one of the event's stewards, who immediately called the police. They were on the spot within seconds, according to Sharon Clarke, Worthing's town centre manager. "What it showed was that with everyone working together, things can be stopped immediately," a reassuring thought for the anxious readers of the Sussex-wide evening paper, The Argus, which led its front page on the outrage.
Officers arrested the offender and seized his camera. They then contacted Suffolk police, who searched the man's home in Ipswich and took away computer data. So far, there seems no reason to suppose that anything untoward was found, but a Home Office laboratory is to conduct an in-depth examination of the material that was impounded.
Now, Worthing police are working to establish how many innocent people at the event may have been traumatised by the affair. Sergeant Maurice Fisher has applauded the public spirit of the vigilant bystander without whose actions "it is very likely this would have gone without intervention".
Perhaps we should all be grateful that in broken Britain it's still possible to find a community whose law enforcement agents, civic officers, local media and ordinary citizens can pull together to rebuff an evil threatening their wellbeing. However, on an inside page of the very edition that chronicled the drama in Worthing, the Argus lamented that Sussex police are now swamped by burdens on their time that prevent them from attending to "what really matters to taxpayers". Might some of the latter be wondering if their county force has got its priorities right?
The ability to take pictures in public places was once a highly regarded English liberty. It's not clear how the children photographed on Worthing's prom would have been harmed by their unwitting experience.
Once, people who found youngsters attractive would have been thought the better for it. Images of Cupids and Ganymedes beguiled our predecessors for centuries. Even during our own strangely prurient millennium, Lewis Carroll's photographs of the girl immortalised in Alice in Wonderland were thought worth saving for the nation.
Let's suppose the worst, however. Let's take the case of a mackintoshed outdoor snapper who is indeed sexually attracted to children and intends to salivate over his snaps. Surely it's better that he should concentrate on his own pictures of unconcerned subjects, rather than download images perhaps secured at the price of real abuse. Maybe taking photos is the way he diverts his desires from more dangerous activities. Certainly people like him will need some way of managing their inclinations. Bang them up as much as you like, but eventually they will still have to re-enter society and live alongside your children.
But unfortunately paranoia over photography is not limited to Worthing. Earlier this summer, a Devon primary school banned parents from taking photos of their children on sports day. The chair of the parent teacher association explained: "It is all to do with the pictures getting into the wrong hands, and the school has to follow its own code of conduct." Cameras are now routinely forbidden at nativity plays.
We are tainting our relationship with our children, perverting their attitude to adults and, perhaps, actually fostering paedophile abuse. Why?