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 terrorist.
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 potential criminal.
“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 acting strangely.
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 target.”
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 photographer.
“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 spot.
“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.”