Talk to Frank

Meet Frank*

Frank is a security guard.

Frank works at the Bridges shopping centre in Sunderland.

Frank thinks I may be a paedophile and is prepared to call the Police to make sure I’m not.

Frank is just obeying orders…..

Here’s what happened

We were in Sunderland visiting my Dad and my Gran. My Dad had given the kids £10 each and Ben wanted to go and buy a toy so we took him into the Bridges shopping centre. While we were walking around we saw a little roundabout with a train on it. Ben loves trains and he went and clambered onto it. The train had a moustache and Sarah was laughing at the train so she told me to take a picture.

As soon as I pressed the button on my cameraphone Frank was by my side. He informed me that I couldn’t take pictures. I asked him why and he said that it was the centre’s rules as I might be a paedophile! I told him that I hadn’t seen any signs saying that photography was forbidden and he conceded that there weren’t any but he was just following his orders from the Centre Management who he would get to come down if I had a problem.

I informed him that in my opinion he was being a little over zealous in performing his duties as the child I had taken a picture of was my son and that maybe he was blowing the threat of paedophiles out of proportion. He said he wasn’t as he was just following orders from on high.

I was getting bored now but was still annoyed about effectively being accused of being a paedophile so I took the picture of Frank so that if I later wanted to make a complaint to the centre I would be able to identify him. I then wandered off to find Sarah who was in the Early Learning Centre.  This is of course ironic that if he really did suspect me of being a paedophile then why did he let me go into a toy shop? And if he didn’t suspect me why then did he make such a fuss?

The other irony is that having being pulled up for using a camera I was then tracked by the centre’s security cameras – I know this because the Police knew exactly where to find me when they arrived a few minutes later. We had moved up the road into another toyshop where, while looking at toys with Ben, I was confronted by PC B*****w who informed me that there had been a complaint.

PC B*****w threatens to arrest me on more than one occasion.

PC B*****w is ill informed about his ability to delete my photographs

PC B*****w doesn’t know what a hyphen is!

So in the middle of a toyshop the confrontation starts again. I’m asked about the original photograph and again I explain that the picture is of my child, again I comment about the lack of signs informing about the “No Photography” rule and PC B*****w agrees with me.  he asks why I took the picture of the security guard and accepts my explanation.

As the discussion is getting a bit heated he threatens to arrest me, saying that I’m causing a breach of the peace. Well come on, what do you expect, I’ve been accused of being a paedophile and had the Police set on me for taking a picture of my own son in a public place – can’t you work out why I’m getting a bit annoyed.

He says he has the right to delete my photographs and I explain that he doesn’t. He backtracks and says he has the right to see them. I tell him he will have to caution me first. He asks for my details which I begrudgingly give him. he asks why I am in the North East – I ask what relevance that has. He explains that he just needs to know!

PC B*****w also informs me that the Bridges shopping centre is a hotbed of paedophile activity and sexual assaults happen there all of the time. Sounds like the sort of place families with young children should avoid IF it’s actually true.

Eventually he goes off to find the security guard and tell him that he has checked me out and everything is ok! A monumental waste of Police time. The lady in the shop is appalled by the situation and admits that even though she works there she wasn’t aware of any “No Photography” policy.

Now I know that there are those who will say that I brought it on myself and I should have just kowtowed to the security guard when he told me not to take pictures. However I disagree – I believe I had every right to take a photograph of my son in a public place and frankly I’m sick of having my civil liberties eroded little by little.

In this country there is no law against taking a photograph in a public space. The shopping centre, although privately owned is still a public space. I know from experience that commercial photography requires permission from the owners but there is no law against the private individual taking a picture in a public space.

The shopping centre could impose a ban on photography within it’s environs but this should be indicated along with all the other things that are banned on the entrance to the centre. There are signs saying no smoking, no alcohol, so skateboards etc but none advertising the alleged ban on photography.

Also there is no law against taking a picture of a child or indeed a security guard in a public place. There is no right of privacy for the individual in this country. So I was well within the law to take both pictures.

Finally there is the presumption of guilt. It has been a long held tradition in this country of being innocent until proven guilty and it is beholden of the authorities to prove a persons guilt. However more and more often it is the individual that is required to prove their innocence. I took a picture of a child therefore until I can prove I am not a paedophile it will be assumed that I am.

The sensible way forward would be only to observe and if I was seen to be taking pictures of more than one child then would be the time to move in but no – in order to protect us from a minority of people everyone must be suspected and prevented from taking innocent pictures of their child. Is this really the sort of world we want to live in?

It’s ironic that at a time when almost every one has the ability to take a photograph using either a camera or a mobile phone, probably more so than ever before, then the ability to do so is slowly being eroded. Fight back – Photography is not a crime. I am not a terrorist, I am not a paedophile, I am a Photographer!

* name may have been changed


Filed under Photography, Rants

38 Responses to Talk to Frank

  1. “Frank” is a tit. Why are staff of every kind in every sort of place being taught to find cameras suspicious? It’s kind of sickening that the police reported back to Frank. He should have been cautioned for wasting police time. But, of course, he was just doing his job. The no comeback excuse of all rights-eroding jobsworths. Well done for standing your ground.

  2. This is yet another in a long line of overzealous UK police and security guards going after photographers. Luckily, the police officer presented a great way to get back at the shopping center.

    “Bridges shopping centre is a hotbed of paedophile activity and sexual assaults happen there all of the time.”

    Parents – don’t shop or let your children shop at Bridges shopping centre as there is a very high risk of your kids being sexually assaulted there!

    Repost, let google index, and watch “Bridges shopping centre” searches associate with paedophiles.

  3. simon

    I’m from Sunderland and this does not surprise me one little bit. The town seems to have a surplus of this type of idiot and the sunderland echo is no better – if they run the story i wouldn’t be surprised if Kevin is depicted as being totally in the wrong and the bridges/cops are just doing there jobs. I know there will be a lot of people in sunderland who will be thinking ‘no smoke without fire’ and will probably acuse kevin of also being a terrorist too. oh it’s a great place!

    (and if i’m wrong about you then speak out, people of sunderland)

  4. the-q


    really bad that this happened to you, it seems that boingboing et al have really picked up this story

    has your brother made any comment ?

    Has the shopping center made any comment ? Googling their name seems to pick up your site ahead of theirs in some countries

    Can we get an update as I am really curious as to what has happened since

  5. Mike

    You need to get brief on this mate. Wilful slander, defamation of character, public embaressment etc etc. Compo should be just about enough to close the place down. Which maybe as well if it really is a ‘hotbed’ for paedo assaults.
    What a joke these trumped Hitlers really are.
    Best of luck to you mate! Mike

  6. Richard

    Always worth reminding the police that if they delete the photos that is a criminal act for which you will demand their prosecution. Nothing like jeopardising their careers to introduce a sense of perspective.

  7. Chris

    This kind of story makes me really sad about the state of the UK.

    I think you are being particularly (and overly) generous to obscure the identity of the security guard and the police man.

  8. David

    the police have officially stated that bridges is a hotbed of paedophilia. How irresponsible of the management to encourage children by having toy trains and toy shops ! I certainly will not be taking my family there!

  9. Abhijan

    This is plain stupid. For some reason, our entire nation seems to be gripped by this kind of robotic behaviour against logic; well certainly the authorities.

    I’m really out of words mate but good on you for holding your own here. still cant believe the arrogance of the policemen threatening to deleting the photo. there’s a law against ‘indecent’ photos of children, not any and every on a simple coin operated train ride.

    Anyone with an ounce of brain can work that out, but somehow the people in power seem to be lacking some basic ingredients.

  10. This is completely and utterly disgusting and one of the many reasons uprooted and left the UK just before Christmas. I’m now resident in New Zealand where they seem to encourage photography and art, and no one bats an eye lid if you take a photograph in any public place.

    Quite frankly, I’m glad to see the back of the UK and it’s going to take a lot for me to step foot in that country again.

  11. Mitchell

    Exactly–the names and faces should all be published, to deter like-minded plonkers who have no clue as to what they are doing.

    If the mall hasn’t contacted you by now, I think every red-blooded Brit should make it a point to avoid shopping there.

    In the States, we still get results when we all put pressure on these types. Maybe the U.K. is too far gone for the authorities/mall owners to care, but I’d raise hell if it were me.

  12. gus

    You should name and shame both the cop and the guard, as it is you’re the one protecting them.

    The guard should be prosecuted for filing a false police report and that should have been the primary objective of the cop when he heard the full story.

    I hope you file a formal complaint against both. You may have grounds to sue the mall over such an horrific and vindictive accusation with no evidence, look into it as an option.

  13. Kevin Prichard

    There’s nothing in any of the recent, major terrorist attacks against the West which would justify the restriction of photography-

    7/7 – no cameras involved
    3/11 – no cameras involved
    9/11 – no cameras involved
    ’95 Oklahoma City – no cameras involved
    ’93 WTC – no cameras involved

    It doesn’t take a genius to understand that a large quantity high explosives requires absolutely no precision when deployed. It seems there’s an assumption that terrorists will use cameras in the planning… in all my reading done about these and other terrorist acts, there was no photography involved at all!

  14. Mike R

    I particularly like Franks intimidatory pose in an ill fitting suit. Proud of you Mr Shewan.

  15. Dave

    Police are NOT allowed to delete photos from a camera. Everyone, know your rights, otherwise scum like this will take over. When that happens you might as well pull the plug out of the UK and let it sink into the North Sea.

  16. John C. Randolph

    I seem to recall a time when if some random git walked up to the average British man and accused him of being a pervert, he’d get sharp punch in the jaw, probably knocking him unconscious. These petty tyrants are far too confident that they can insult people with impunity.


  17. Mudkipz

    Anyone ever watch V For Vendetta? Yeah, that’s pretty much the state the UK is falling into at the moment. Since when was photography a crime?

  18. Ivan

    Welcome to your country (the UK)!
    A hot bed of frustrated and obsessive sexualities – famously so since the Victorians – which has now reached its peak of insane hysteria, famous worldwide. A National Shame.
    So you deserve it.
    This blog is good, but no use. It’s the people above who have to be denounced for politically useful false fear-mongering.
    Mostly it wouldnt matter, if it were not that its the children, as usual, who are taking the brunt:

    I am French a teacher. For our class we saw ‘La Gloire de Mon Pere’. When a scene came in which there is a hose-pipe nude showering 1930’s style scene, the classroom errupted in a frenzy. They shouted, almost possessed, ‘he’s pedophile!!’ …at the boy showering.
    They were 9 year-olds.

    The UK is breeding a very, very sick new generation of children. The worse is yet to come.

  19. Ezequiel

    Civil liberties? Do you know that in your country you can be arrested if they think you are a terrorist? There is no need to prove it. If you are suspicius, you can be legally arrested, and incommunicated for a month or two, and you don’t have the right of having a lawyer to defend you. And your family won’t know anything about you until you get free again. After the twin towers incident, you have lost this right. You’re guilty until proved inoccent.

  20. Ezequiel

    I’m Sorry. I though’t that you were in the US. Last comment doesn’t apply to UK.

  21. works in the bridges

    sunderland security staff are amazing. its a shame its wasted on people who live in sunderland. or should i say paid in benefits to live in sunderland. majority of people working in sunderland arent from sunderland. someone has to do it!!

  22. It is so depressing ………. Well done for standing up for you rights…….. Its vile to be accused of pedophilia just because you are making a photograph ……. it’s depressing that taking a photograph is equated with terrorism and abuse…….. I’ve had this stuff in Britain and the US and even India and other places far and wide ( I am a photographer)……. I had an incident like this only yesterday in Virginia ……’s a growing psychosis……. It is depressing and can only be addressed by shining the light of public scrutiny on to each of these vile incidents …… individually they are so petty ……. Collectively it’s a massive attack on the civil rights of people living in ‘free countries’. You did much better at recording your incident than I…….. I will remember to make a photograph or a recording of any other Franks I have dealings with in this regard in future. I wrote up my problems at Richmond Airport Virginia on my blog………

  23. squint

    i allmost didnt believe this at 1st… that is a total joke

  24. Roger

    Ezequiel-That’s not true in the US

  25. Roger

    You can blame feminism and female hysteria for all of this. Child molestors are EXTREMELY rare but yet that’s all we seem to hear about in the media. It ‘s like every man is a suspect.
    There is also no law against taking any sort of photograph in a public place. And btw, does this shopping mall having it posted when you enter that you and your child are being photographed? Shouldn’t there be a warning and then you can choose if you want to shop there before you enter?
    And the poster who said that this little snoop aka “security guard” would have got a punch in the nose years ago for insulting a man is absolutely correct.

  26. ES

    I have to say that these are all very narrow views of what happened here.
    I am an architect and have worked all around the world on commercial projects, both new and existing.
    It is the standard that you are not allowed to take photos in shopping centres in London, France, Japan and Tunisia to name just a few and in most cases it has nothing to do with terrorism or general safety. It wasnt possible for me to take photo’s inside the famous LaForet shopping centre in Japan because of the shoppers right to privacy. The shops themselves could not be photographed just incase you copied their goods amongst other reasons, It most major supermarkets you are not allowed to take photographs.

    I know in this case you were taking a photo of your son, but you should be happy these precautions are in place. If ‘Frank’ were to not do his job properly, and your son was discretely photographed by a stranger and then perhaps posted on the internet I think you would then be complaining about the security guards incompetence on the matter of your sons privacy.
    Unfortunately you cant have the best of both worlds. You cant single out a person who may be a convicted pedophile and say ‘no photos’ then to an unknown man ‘snap away’ because there is always a chance.
    There are plenty of places you can photograph your child.
    I think its time to accept that the world is not made of candy canes and sugar plums! Bad things happen!

  27. Mark

    As a retired police officer I am dismayed beyond belief at the amount of police constables, community support officers and council wardens that believe they have powers they dont have! There is no offence of anyone taking photographs in a public place unless provided for in specific legislation such as park, railway or airport byelaws. There is no power of arrest attached to most byelaws other than for failure to provide details for summons if being reported for an offence this is usualy limited to police constables in any event. Council wardens and enforcement officers although having powers to report for specific offences do not have a power of arrest for joe bloggs failing to provide details for summons hence they usually have a police offficer with them for support when joe bloggs quite rightly walks off. When police officers are over bearing as this one appeared or is on a fishing expedition (public order / breach ) it is reasonable to make a complaint to a senior officer or the forces profesional standards unit who will ALWAYS investigate and make recomendations to senior officers on training or update force communications. Always remain calm and ensure you can be heard by those around you whithout shouting NEVER swear always keep your hands open and be aware of making large movements with your hands / arms. Remember Police Costables must be proportionate with any action and should never escalate conflict !!!

  28. Neil

    So which bright spark implemented a policy that assumes all parents are suspected paedophiles?

    Alienating families from your shopping centre, what inspired business move.


    HI Kevin,

    Will you please contact me if you intend any action against the said establishment.
    I am presently pursuing actions of my own for a similar BUT FAR WORSE situation.

    I was accused of “touching a child’s head” whilst passing him/her. I was then stopped in my
    car in ‘The Bridges’ roof top car park by 3 “Security Guards” whilst one then grabbed me by the
    neck, began heaving me about then threw me into the car whilst continuing to mal-handle/ punch me
    causing various dental injuries before calling the police and accusing me of also being a “PAEDOPHILE”.
    They actually had me “ARRESTED” for “PUBLIC DISORDER”.

    I do NOT invent ANY of this.

    I have, via Sunderland County Court, obtained all pertinent CCTV/Video recordings concerning this
    MOST SERIOUS a perfectly well intended. perfectly innocent customer. There
    were NO GROUNDS for ANY charges against me and NO further action was taken against me.

    I remain EXTREMELY TRAUMATIZED since this experience last August. I actually returned 2 days later
    to try and confirm the existence of nearby CCTV, however was approached AGAIN by further “Security Guards”
    who AGAIN called the police, allegeing AGAIN that I was a “paedophile”. They then attended,
    stopped me in my car, by the main road and demanded I DELETE ALL MY MOBILE TELEPHONE
    PICTURES (whilst surrounded by 4 police officers).

    Incredible as this seems I DO NOT exaggerate a single word and am FULLY INTENT on pursuing
    fitting, indeed substantial ACTION as a consequence.

    I would ask you please to contact me (at my personal e-mail address, provided) if you do also intend
    pursuing matters further.

    With Regards,


    (NO MORE!!!)

  30. Cesar

    Hi, so we have yours and Phil’s stories, any new development? I hope that if both of you take any legal action against this place you succeed on making an statement about civil liberties.

    It is mighty frightening seeing these kind of things happen to one of the world’s most advanced societies, I’m from what you would a 3rd world country and guys…. you are the leaders, if you let your government and social paranoia step on your rights that encourages the governments around here to do it 10 times worse!

    I have done my best to avoid doing US based flight connections because I really do not want to deal with all the TSA’s stuff I have read countless times, I visited the UK for a couple of weeks about 2 years ago and it is beautiful place, fortunately I was able to took a lot of pictures without any trouble

  31. Its an interesting and absurd news…As an artist(im a photographer) i find this sad and ridiculous but as a person i have to try to understand how many creeps UK and USA have but still is not a justification of what you do to you.

  32. PC Bent

    How dare they film your children! By their own logic, these people must be greasy, slimy, balding pedos!

    I am glad I don’t live in your god-forsaken country of Small (minded) Britain, but if I did I certainly would avoid that shopping centre like the plague that obviously infests it.

  33. Peter42y

    look at my story :

    No pictures of people in portugal
    Portugal is a small country of ten million , bordering spain. Some people in portugal like photography. I am one of them. Today I was taking some shots in a public garden. I pointed my camera to a place were 2 adults and children were playing. 150 feet away. Suddenly a female does shout : ” No pictures of children “. I said nothing. She insisted : ” Are you taking pictures of children !? No pictures of children !!!”. I had actually taken no shots. She was too far away. 2 minutes later she ,the children , and another individual left. I thought the wholle episode was over…, but it was not. Suddenly when I was returning home a car stopped near me . It was the woman again !!! ” You must not take pictures of children !! You must delete them from your camera !!”.She shouted . I did continue walking. The car did follow me for a couple of feet and it did stop again. A woman in her 50s did jump out of the car and did confront me : ” Delete the pictures from your camera !! You must delete the pictures !!”. I did reply something to her but I realized it was uselless to argue with her. I told her that and did continue walking. A few feet away there were 3 cops waiting for me and a police car. They asked if I were taking pictures. I told them the story and they asked me for the camera. I did show them the camera. They did browse the pictures..,there were no children pictures. Cops told me I could not take pictures of people, especially children. Portugal was rocked by a paedo scandal. A few years ago it was discovered that in a state run institution for poor children there were paedophiles. Cops went away and later I read what law says. It is possible to photograph landmarks . No problem if such pictures show people. But it is forbidden to take pictures of people and especially children.

  34. Peter42y

    In short : in these times any photographer taking pictures of children in public places is a paedo , in portugal.
    Despite that there are thousands of child pictures , online..,in clothes catalogs..,in advertisements…;
    But these pictures will not be watched by paedos.
    No need to protect such children !!!!
    The children at risk are those who are shot by individuals , despite the fact that 95% of the people are not paedofiles.

    I was shocked because who I am . Besides why should a paedo take shots of children ? There are zillions of pictures of children online. Dozens , hundreds , of pictures of children are published in various magazines !!
    Why would a paedo need to take pictures of children in public places when there are zillions of pictures of children online ?
    The belief the photographer can harm you in some way is paranoia.
    Despite that that paranoia became a collective paranoia.
    People seem to believe paedos buy cameras.., in order to capture the supreme moment of a child playing with another child in a public place lol .
    Society is sick.

  35. F Baxter

    I wish I could get hold of Phil Sinclair Allen because I too have had a dreadful experience at one of Land Securities shopping centres (The Bridges is also owned by Land Securities plc) – post 20th May 2010 above. He mentions Frank should get in touch, but leaves no contact details. I really want to talk to him about my own experience about the security guards I experienced and about the shopping centre manager involving the incident I was connected with. My story is just as bad, if not worse.

    If you read this, Phil, please find a way of making yourself contactable or, perhaps, Frank could give me his details via my own e-mail addy.