AN AMATEUR photographer was restrained by security guards after he was challenged for taking pictures in a public place.
Lawrence Windrush was outside The Mall in Linthorpe Road, in Middlesbrough town centre, with his camera when he looked through his zoom lens at an incident in the street involving security guards and the police.
Moments later he was confronted by a guard from Northern Security who he claims challenged his right to take photos and tried to detain him.
Since then video footage of the incident taken by his friend has been viewed more than 16,000 times on an internet site.
And the Gazette has been inundated with calls from readers defending the photographer – most insisting they have nothing to do with those involved.
Mr Windrush, 42, of South Bank, said security staff in Middlesbrough did not seem to realise it is legal to take pictures of people when on public land.
However, Northern Security said the photographer was “exacerbating” a difficult situation as a police officer dealt with an alleged shoplifter.
Mr Windrush, a customer services worker, said: “I love taking pictures of people. I get no hassle anywhere else, but when you go to Middlesbrough I always get stopped. I explain how the law stands but no one has a clue.”
Mr Windrush and his friend were eventually surrounded by around seven security guards during the incident, on April 17.
Police were alerted and the pair were questioned before being released as they had broken no law.
Mr Windrush, who says he will happily delete a picture if someone is unhappy, said: “I thought it was abysmal. This happens almost every time I go into Middlesbrough with my camera. You have a lawful right to take any picture on public land.”
Paul Heeran, Operations Director for Northern Security, said his officers were trained to provide assistance to police officers in the execution of their duty.
He said: “In this incident, one of our officers became aware that an individual was inflaming a situation in which a police officer was trying to detain a suspect.
“By shouting insults and abusive language, and by making apparent that he was recording the incident, this individual was exacerbating an already difficult situation.”
Mr Heeran said his officer approached the individual and asked him to stop such behaviour.
He said: “In our view, the officer acted perfectly correctly in making this request.
“He was simply trying to assist the police officer by removing a source of provocation which was hindering the officer’s efforts to resolve the situation calmly and peacefully.
“As such, Northern Security fully supports the role of the officer in helping to maintain public order.
“While we acknowledge that taking photographs in a public place is not generally an offence, our officer’s concern was the effect that the photographer’s actions were having.”
Lawrence admitted he swore – but said it was only after he was told he could not take pictures.
He said: “I was at least 20 metres away. I was not swearing at anybody. I was not taking a picture. I was just looking through my zoom lens.”
Click here to view video footage.