Police are using draconian anti-terrorism powers against trainspotters, it has emerged.Whew! Well, I feel safer...! How about you?
Enthusiasts innocently taking photographs of carriages and noting serial numbers have been accused of behaving like a reconnaissance unit for a terror cell.
The Prevention of Terrorism Act 2000 has been used to stop a staggering 62,584 people at railway stations.
Another 87,000 were questioned under separate 'stop and search' and 'stop and account' legislation.
The figures were uncovered by Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Norman Baker, who warned that Britain was sliding towards a 'police state'.Nope, sorry Norman. What with plans to encourage people to inform on ‘extremists’ (as long as they are ‘right wing’, of course) and hack into any home PC they fancy, anyone with any sense would have to conclude that we are already there.
Mr Baker said: 'While it is important to be vigilant about the threat of terrorism to the transport network, the sheer scale of the number of people stopped by police on railway property is ridiculous.Lots of things aren’t a criminal offence....yet. Give ‘em time, though.
'Law-abiding passengers get enough hassle on overcrowded trains as it is without the added inconvenience of over-zealous policing.
'The anti-terror laws allow officers to stop people for taking photographs and I know this has led to innocent trainspotters being stopped.
'This is an abuse of anti-terrorism powers and a worrying sign that we are sliding towards a police state.
'Trainspotting may be an activity of limited, and indeed questionable, appeal, but it is not a criminal offence and it is not a terrorist threat.'
Of course, such fears were poo-poohed by the people whose wages are drawn from the unwilling:
British Transport Police were unable to give specific figures for the numbers of railway enthusiasts stopped under these powers.If you were using it appropriately in the first place, it wouldn’t need to be ‘reissued on a number of occasions’, now would it....?
But in a letter to Mr Baker, the force's Chief Constable, Ian Johnston, said: 'There is clear guidance available to officers (and railway enthusiasts), and this has been reissued on a number of occasions over the last couple of months in response to the increased concern among some railway enthusiasts'.