SNAP UNHAPPY: Rob McCaffery amateur transport photographer from Robinswood, Gloucester who has been approached by police while photographing buses. Left – one of Rob's photographs of an old bus, taken in Gloucester's Clarence Street.
AS a boy, Rob McCaffrey was fascinated by buses, trams and
coaches of all different shapes and sized.
But after amassing 30,000 photos over 40 years as a bus
spotter – or omnibologist – he says he may hang up his camera
because he is fed up with being labelled a paedophile or a
Rob, from Robinswood, Gloucester, claims he has been forced
to suffer the humiliation of police taking his details and
checking his camera twice in the past 12 months, after
innocently snapping buses on public highways.
And now he says enough is enough.
Rob, 50, said: “Since the 9/11 attacks there has been a
crackdown on security and it seems everyone with a camera is a
“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.
“We just want to enjoy our hobby without harassment.”
Rob says his love affair with buses has taken him all over
Europe and to former Iron Curtain countries, but the only time
he has ever had any trouble is in the UK.
The credit controller says his first brush with the long arm
of the law was in Pontypridd, last September.
A bus driver took exception to being snapped and called the
police, who demanded to see what he had on his camera.
A second incident in Monmouth saw an embarrassed PCSO
approach Rob and run his name and address through police
computers after a member of the public complained he had been
And while he admits the image of a bespectacled, geeky
mac-wearing trainspotter taking down train numbers does apply
to some extreme bus and train enthusiasts, the vast majority
are normal everyday people, like himself.
Rob's wife Jay, 46, agrees he is being hard done by.
“My brother drives a bus in London, and says if he had a
pound for every time a tourist took a picture, he'd be a
millionaire,” she argued.
“It happens every day. The spotters are just an easy
It is not illegal to take photos in a public place, but
under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, police officers may
randomly stop someone without reasonable suspicion, if the area
is a likely target for an attack.
MP and amateur snapper Austin Mitchell tabled an early day
motion in the Commons calling on the Home Office and police to
educate officers about photographers' rights after being
stopped twice himself.
Rob is fed up of the accusations, and says police need to
stop over-reaching their authority.
“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,” he said.
“We don't want to harbour people doing something illegal,
but while the police are wasting their time with me a terrorist
could be planning his next atrocity.”
A spokesperson for Gloucestershire Police said: “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
“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
“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.”