Skip to content Skip to main navigation

News

Chamberlains - complete legal services for business

Police officer forces deletion of photos taken in ‘public’

By Chris Mordd Richards - 10 April 2013 107

A rather disturbing event occurred this evening that I would like to share with you all and get feedback on.

I was at Woden bus interchange at 6:20pm (9/4/13) and witnessed 3 Westfield security personnel chasing a young girl (approx. 15/16yrs old) through the interchange (the girl was walking fast but not running as such). Curious and with nothing better to do while waiting for my bus I followed them to see what what was going on. The security caught up with the girl at the eastern edge of the interchange and were joined by a 4th Westfield security guard and surrounded the girl preventing her getting away. At this point I didn’t think that was too unusual but thought i’d continue to observe while waiting for my bus.

While watching them the girl made 2 attempts to get past the guards and away from them, and on both occasions one of the guards (the same one both times) grabbed the girl by the arm, and in my opinion, dragged her quite aggressively and violently back into the middle of the circle the guards had formed. At this point I started taking photos on my mobile phone of what was going on as the manner in which the guard wrenched her by the arm seemed to constitute quite excessive force in my opinion and possibly consituted an assault on the girl, who was short and skinny and no match for the burly security personnel.

After about ten minutes 2 police officers approached the scene and I informed them that I was a bystander who had witnessed one of the guards violently wrench the girl by the arm, and was asked to wait to the side while they spoke to the people involved, which I did, standing about 5-6 metres back from the scene and patiently waiting to speak to one of the officers. Eventually I was approached by a Constable Cubbins who informed I could go. I stated I wanted my details recorded as a witness to the possible assault on the girl involved. Constable Cubbins refused to take my details, and then demanded to see the photos I had taken on my phone, obviously informed of this fact by the security guards as I had not mentioned taking photos to the officers when I first approached them myself.

I complied, showing the officer the three photos I had taken, at which point Constable Cubbins ordered me to delete the photos from my phone (note the photos were only of the security guards and girl, not of the police officers themselves, not that this should make a difference though). I initially refused, stating that my understanding was I had every right to have taken the photos and that he did not have the right to order me to delete them.

At this point Constable Cubbins stated that if I did not delete the photos he would confiscate my phone as evidence. Not wanting to lose my phone (although I was sure this was just an intimidation tactic to get me to comply), I informed Constable Cubbins that I would delete the photos as he had demanded – and proceeded to do so – but that I would be following up the next day in regards to this demand, as I believed he had no legal right to force me to do this. I stated for the record my objection to being forced to delete the photos.

At this point Constable Cubbins simply walked off and proceeded to escort the girl towards the police station with the other officer, leaving me with no option but to go and get my bus home, feeling quite intimidated and angry at my perception that Constable Cubbins had no right to have ordered me to delete the photos. Having done some research online now, I believe that I did have every right to have taken the photos, and furthermore that an ACT police officer has no right to order the deletion of said photos or to threaten to confiscate my phone if that threat was given with the sole intent to get me to comply with an illegal instruction from the officer.

The only thing I am not sure about is whether the bus interchange counts as Public or Private property which could have an impact on the legality of the instruction given to me by Constable Cubbins. Given the interchange is owned by the ACT government and accessible to the general public my understanding is this counts as public property but I still need to clarify this properly.

In my opinion it is bad enough that Constable Cubbins refused to take my statement in regards to my alleging an assault had taken place (his response on that was the guards were effecting an arrest, therefore whatever they did was lawful, and that if the girl involved made a complaint about it they would review the bus interchange security footage and therefore my statement was not required), however I am admittedly pretty livid over being forced to delete the photos from my phone, as I believe that is a breach of my civil rights.

I intend to call Legal Aid in the morning and consult with them in regards to what occurred and how (and who) best to make a formal complaint to so that the matter can be investigated, and I welcome any and all opinions on this as to the legalities involved here. Meanwhile I have downloaded some file recovery software and will be attempting to restore the deleted files from my phones SD card – the photos themselves don’t show very much (and my cameras 2MP camera is low quality obviously) but the principle of the matter is at stake here and I would like to recover the photos in case I can use them as evidence in the complaint I can make.

UPDATE 16:42 10/04/13: ACT Policing had this response:

· ACT Policing can confirm officers attended an incident involving two females at Woden bus interchange yesterday.

· Should the writer of this material wish to submit a complaint, this can be done online via the AFP website (www.afp.gov.au)

What’s Your opinion?


Post a comment
Please login to post your comments, or connect with
107 Responses to
Police officer forces deletion of photos taken in ‘public’
p1 10:32 am 10 Apr 13

I kinda hope one day a cop tries this kinda crap with me so I can say no… But I am guessing they are pretty good at their job (reading peoples body language etc), and so can tell pretty quickly if the person is going to comply or not..

dtc 10:32 am 10 Apr 13

Dilandach said :

While I agree you’re free to take photos as you please (to within reason) I don’t agree with attempting to do the girl any favours by attempting to white knight for her. Security Guards don’t pick out random people to go after and call the police on.

When dealing with people who have done the wrong thing, they’re not likely to be cooperative in sticking around to face the repercussions. Is it a case of you thinking ‘female = delicate flower’ with your instinctive feelings kicking in over what you perceived as her bad treatment?

Unless they visibly broke her arm, pulled it out of the socket or caused her to scream out in pain. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with what the guards did. Their job.

Really? there are plenty of false imprisonment cases running in the courts and decided by the courts that say you are wrong. Just because a person ‘in power’ is doing something doesnt mean that person ‘in power’ is right.

pptvb 10:30 am 10 Apr 13

Here is a little light reading for you.
http://4020.net/words/photorights.php

As I understand it, the girl WAS assaulted, but there are many grey areas around being detained.

IrishPete 10:29 am 10 Apr 13

It may be complicated by the fact the girl is a juvenile, and the identities of juveniles are protected (not just suspected/convicted offenders, but children generally – you wouldn’t want people taking pictures of children without parental permission). But if this was the reason, the police officer should have explained this to you.

IP

thebrownstreak69 10:23 am 10 Apr 13

Interesting. The police are clearly out of line here. Make sure you keep us updated on what happens.

Postalgeek 10:22 am 10 Apr 13

Can’t say I feel mightily indignant about a presumed shoplifter being firmly restrained after trying to make a break for it, twice. Had they punched her, I’d be concerned, but yanking back a suspect who’s not getting the message is not up there with assault in my books. I certainly don’t think I would then intercept a police officer and complain about security and raise issues of assault associated with such restraint. Overkeen, and arguably trivial, intercession on behalf of a suspected wrongdoer just makes the job of law enforcement more tedious and will piss off those expected to maintain order, as is evidently the case here.

Having said that, whether a bus exchange is considered public space (I would assume so) and whether police have the authority to demand the deletion of pictures taken in public space is a different issue and I would be interested in seeing a definitive answer on this.

dannybear 10:08 am 10 Apr 13

dannybear said :

You can take a photograph of anything in a public place, and anything on private property till you are instructed not to, even on private property the image remains your property and nobody has the legal right to make you destroy it, in some circumstances this would even be regarded as destruction of evidence which could carry a prison sentence or fine. I can’t guide you on where to go from here but you were completely within your rights to take photographs.

Just to clarify nobody can tell you to stop taking pictures on public property.

Mike Bessenger 10:08 am 10 Apr 13

This happened to me about 5 years ago. I had just missed a car roll and crash into a house (by about 20 seconds). Being the first on the scene I assisted the woman trapped in the car until the fire and ambulance arrived. After she was extracted I thought I’d take myself a ‘trophy’ photo of the car at this point a police officer in one of those XR6 turbo utes (funny enough he was wearing his leather pants) demanded I delete the photo, I just laughed, he threatened that he could arrest me at which point I said that ‘he should be thanking me for assisting the woman and calling the fire/ambulance instead of harassing me, if he felt the need to arrest me then that would be the action required’. He just walked off.
I appreciate the majority of the police force, but there are many that just need to get off their high horse and get on with their job.

dannybear 10:06 am 10 Apr 13

You can take a photograph of anything in a public place, and anything on private property till you are instructed not to, even on private property the image remains your property and nobody has the legal right to make you destroy it, in some circumstances this would even be regarded as destruction of evidence which could carry a prison sentence or fine. I can’t guide you on where to go from here but you were completely within your rights to take photographs.

jase! 10:05 am 10 Apr 13

if you haven’t used the phone much and it can be mounted as a USB device then maybe adroit photo recovery is for you

Jivrashia 9:50 am 10 Apr 13

At this point Constable Cubbins stated that if I did not delete the photos he would confiscate my phone as evidence.

An officer stating that he is intending to take your phone/photo as evidence is a bit baloney, given that he’d initially asked you to delete it. But that’s the tactic they employ to bully the general public.

The trick is to immediately upload your photos off the phone. (trick of the trade for some journos I’m told). And of course they DON’T NEED TO KNOW that you already have copies of the photos elsewhere.

As for public places and the right to take photographs – damn right you are.

zorro29 9:43 am 10 Apr 13

wow….while i am sure the girl did something wrong and i am sick of a culture that encourages people to do what they want without fear/expectation of reprisal

but the way the police officer treated you is what shocks me…asking you to delete the photos and then saying if you don’t that they’d confiscate your phone…yeah, i’d make a complaint about that

Dilandach 9:40 am 10 Apr 13

While I agree you’re free to take photos as you please (to within reason) I don’t agree with attempting to do the girl any favours by attempting to white knight for her. Security Guards don’t pick out random people to go after and call the police on.

When dealing with people who have done the wrong thing, they’re not likely to be cooperative in sticking around to face the repercussions. Is it a case of you thinking ‘female = delicate flower’ with your instinctive feelings kicking in over what you perceived as her bad treatment?

Unless they visibly broke her arm, pulled it out of the socket or caused her to scream out in pain. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with what the guards did. Their job.

bundah 9:35 am 10 Apr 13

There are no shortage of cops who resort to intimidation to get what they want.My response to some of them,in the past, has been to basically tell them to go fcuk themselves if they’re being unreasonable.Oddly enough it’s been quite effective as i’ve never been arrested for standing my ground.

johnboy 9:14 am 10 Apr 13

Having been here myself I can assure the policeman was making an arse of himself.

Email the ombudsman saying you wish to make a complaint about it.

Trust me the ombudsman takes this very seriously and the public needs to keep pushing back on it.

1 2 3 8

Related Articles

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Top
Copyright © 2017 Riot ACT Holdings Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.
www.the-riotact.com | www.b2bmagazine.com.au | www.thisiscanberra.com

Search across the site