geek telecommunications specialist David Mery was arrested at Southwark tube station in London. What had he done? Among other things, he’d failed to look at police on the way into the station, was wearing a jacket they decided was ‘too warm for the season’, had a bulky rucksack, and two other men entered the station at about the same time.
After being searched, he was almost released relatively quickly, but a series of unfortunate coincidences including records of loosely security-related events at his workplace, the electronic bit of an old work pass on his person, and various telecom gadgetry in his flat, meant that he was held in custody for about 10 hours before finally being released at 4am the next morning.
Obviously the UK has been on a heightened sense of paranoia since the Underground attacks (and apparently this incident happened in July, just a few weeks afterwards). Perhaps Mery can thank himself lucky that he didn’t run and they didn’t shoot him. But what they appear to have ignored here is the presumption of innocence, even after he and his rucksack had been searched.
I know the transport enthusiasts are starting to worry about being hassled by security when pursuing their hobby — though they’re some of the people most likely to notice when something on the system is amiss. And apart from innocent people getting caught up in the net, there’s the obvious concern of enormous amounts of police resources being tied up on incidents like this for no good reason. Obviously a balance needs to be found, but it would seem in London at least they’ve swung too far towards the paranoid.