Duncan's blog

October 8, 2008

“Man fined for taking photograph”

Filed under: Photos — duncan @ 7:49 am
Tags: , , ,

According to the BBC News

A man who took a photograph of an ill woman outside an Edinburgh bar has been fined £100 after being branded “unchivalrous” by a sheriff.

The woman had been drinking with friends in an Omni Centre bar when she felt unwell and went outside for air.

Sebastian Przygodzki took a photograph with his camera, which upset Rebecca Smith and her friends called police.

He was arrested and charged with breach of the peace, and pleaded guilty to the offence at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

So he was fined for breach of the peace, which these days seems to be used as a catch-all offence which the police will charge you with when they know you’ve done something bad, but they can’t think of any other crime you could be charged with.

Basically he took a photo of some girl puking up outside the Omni centre, her drunk friends kicked up a fuss and called the police. Rather than try and arrest a gang of harpies Scottish lassies for being drunk and disorderly, they arrested the Polish guy and charged him with breach of the peace. Institutional racism? Soft target?

There’s been quite a lot of discussion about this already. Most of it misunderstands the situation; the Sheriff merely sentenced him – the man had already plead guilty to the offence. Most people charged with breach of the peace would do the same thing, you’ll only have to pay a fine rather than go through a costly and time-consuming legal process.

In fact most commentators are missing out on what I think is the most disturbing aspect of this story – that the police decided to charge someone taking a photo of someone else in public with breach of the peace. That sets a dangerous precedent. Right now the police, community safety officers and private security guards are frequently overstepping their authority by trying to stop people taking photos in public, or asking them to delete photos etc. If the police can also decide the mere act of taking a photo is potentially a breach of the peace, they’ll be hard to stop.


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