Terror laws arrest threat to concerned train passenger
A RAIL passenger from East Anglia was threatened with arrest under anti-terror laws after he warned train staff dangerous over-crowding could cost lives.
Nigel Roberts was told he would be detained after he took photographs of luggage-crammed aisles and exits on a train “because it was illegal” and he faced prosecution.
An inspector demanded the company director’s personal details after he used his mobile phone to capture what he felt were chaotic conditions.
The internet expert from Manningtree was travelling from Southampton to London when he saw piled-up suitcases, bags and backpacks.
The 41-year-old said: “The train was full of passengers who had got off cruise liners and aircraft at Southampton who obviously all had luggage.
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“But it was a disaster waiting to happen. Conditions on the train were unsafe and in an emergency people would not have been able to get out.”
Mr Roberts told an inspector he would complain to the Office of Rail Regulation because he believed conditions on the train were unsafe.
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But when he mentioned the photos, the inspector said it was illegal under the Terrorism Act and warned he could be arrested and then demanded Mr Roberts’s name and address.
“He said there were police officers on the train and I may be arrested for taking the photographs.
“He said he had powers given to him under the Railways Act to ask me for the information and it was an even more serious offence for me not to comply. I felt as if I was in a police state.
“He told me he would make a note of our conversation so that they could be used in the event of a prosecution. He was pleasant enough but it was a frightening and chilling experience for me.”
Mr Roberts, who works in the Channel Islands and was on his way home, is referring the safety issue to the Office of Rail Regulation and also taking legal advice about the threatened arrest for collecting evidence.
A spokeswoman for South West Trains said: “Staff are aware they need to be particularly attentive to unusual photos being taken or suspicious behaviour and to challenge this if necessary.
“However, this was clearly not an issue in this case and we will ensure our staff are re-briefed to avoid any misunderstanding in the future. We are sorry for any upset and anxiety caused to Mr Roberts.
“We need to strike a balance between seating, room for luggage as well as providing toilets and we do as much as we can to provide luggage room within the constraints of available space.
“But we understand there can be pressure on space at busy times and we ask for the co-operation of our customers in not compromising safety by blocking the aisles with luggage.”