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UK clamps down on bus-spotting terror menace

Omniboligist driven off the streets

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The UK's streets are today a safer place for kiddies and decorated war veterans after public and police hostility forced a Gloucestershire bus-spotter to give up his lifelong hobby of snapping interesting examples of road-based public transport, the Evening Standard reports.

Rob McCaffrey, 50, had apparently over 40 years built up an impressive 30,000 pics of buses, coaches and trams from across the globe, but has now put the lens cap on for good because he "keeps being mistaken for a terrorist and paedophile".

He explained: "Since the 9/11 attacks there has been a crackdown on security and it seems everyone with a camera is now regarded as a potential criminal. The past two years have absolutely been the worst. I have had the most appalling abuse from the public, drivers and police over-exercising their authority.

"People like me just want to enjoy our hobby without harassment but it is impossible now."

Credit controller and self-dubbed "omniboligist" McCaffrey says he's been pulled twice in the last year by suspicious cops, and obliged to cough his personal details after "people who saw him innocently snapping buses on public roads reported him". The first collar-feeling was last September in Pontypridd, South Wales, when a bus driver " took exception to being photographed and called the police, who demanded to see what Rob had on his camera."

He was then run through the system a second time in Monmouth when a Police Community Support Officer responded to members of the public who'd "complained he had been acting strangely".

McCaffrey bemoaned: "I can deal with the fact someone might think I'm a terrorist, but when they start saying you're a paedophile it really hurts. We don't want to support people doing something illegal, but while the police are wasting their time with me a terrorist could be planning his next atrocity."

A Gloucestershire Police spokeswoman clarified: "If a member of the public becomes suspicious of an individual taking photos in public and makes a complaint to a police officer, the officer will first discuss the matter with the photographer. Normally the individual is more than happy to disperse any suspicion by showing an officer their photos and one of the benefits of digital cameras is that this can be done on the spot.

"However, if the officer remains suspicious as to the content of the images or the photographers intentions they have the authority, under the Police and Criminal Evident Act, to seize the camera and arrest the individual."

That these are perilous times for UK snappers is further evidenced by the rather disturbing story of keen amateur photographer Stephen Carroll who in December 2007 was photographing "sensitive buildings" in the centre of Hull when vigilant law enforcement operatives confiscated his film. His case is just one example of the burgeoning state paranoia which has "seriously worried" photographers. ®

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