THREE professional photographers were made to feel like “dirty old men” after police accused them of taking pictures of children in Roker Park.
Stan Tunstall-Otterburn was outraged when two Community Support Officers (CSOs) stopped him and his two colleagues as they were looking for a good spot to take some shots.
Stan, along with pals Daniel Eddy and Mike Barfield, said they were approached by the officers, treated as criminals and made to feel like paedophiles as they were questioned about their activities.
The 62-year-old, who has been a photographer for 50 years, said: “They made us all feel like dirty old men.
“All we were doing was standing looking at the model railway with cameras in our hands and because there were children playing in the park they’ve jumped to the wrong conclusion.
“The officers told us it was illegal to take photos of young children.
“There was a simple explanation why we were there and that was we are photographers and we were looking for a good photo opportunity as we always do.
“We were actually looking at the model railway when they came over. One of us hadn’t even got their camera out of their bag. It’s a disgrace.”
Stan explained to the officer that he is a professional photographer and they had not been taking any photos of the playing children.
He added that he carries round a consent form for parents to sign in case he does, which he showed to the officers along with a copy of guidelines for photographers.
The men carried on with their photo shoot, walking towards the beach and on to the lower promenade where they made their way up to the North Pier.
They were walking for about 20 minutes when they realised the CSOs were following them.
They stopped to let them catch up and when they did were told the CSOs had spoken to their sergeant who had requested they look at the photos they had taken.
After checking over the photos, the officers took the men’s names and addresses and told them they were “free to go”.
“This is really taking the biscuit and is political correctness gone wrong,” said Stan, who runs Digital Dreams.
“How dare they do this? It was embarrassing and we did nothing wrong. We were made to feel like criminals and perverts.
“In all my years of photography nothing like this has ever happened to me before and it’s a case of the world gone mad.
“Now our names and addresses are on file and we don’t know what next to.”
Stan has lodged a complaint with police.
A Northumbria Police spokeswoman said: “The role of a CSO is to provide reassurance by carrying out high-visibility patrols and as part of that role they will often stop and speak to people.
“Where they have concerns about a situation, it is only right they challenge it and carry out further enquiries to protect our communities, and we’re sure our communities would support us in this.
“On this occasion it was established all was in order.
“If anyone’s unhappy about the way they’ve been dealt with by police they can contact us and we will look into the matter.”
* Stan Tunstall-Otterburn’s Digital Dreams company is in no way associated with Digital Dreams Photography based in Gateshead.