Couple banned for life from shopping centre and branded ‘terrorists’ – for taking photos of their grandchildren
January 3, 2008
They were thrown out of the centre after they took out a camera to snap the look on the youngsters’ faces when they turned up unexpectedly.
The couple were on a four-day break from their home in Spain and wanted to surprise their family by arriving at the centre, in Fareham, Hants, while they were shopping.But when they went to take a photo, a security guard pounced and ordered them out.
The guard then insisted that cameras were banned because of the risk of a terrorist attack – and barred the bemused couple for life.
Speaking from her home in Malaga, Spain, Mrs Sparshott, 51, said: “I couldn’t believe it. I was so shocked.
“He said we had committed an act of terrorism.
“At first I wanted the ground to swallow me up whole because it was so embarassing – but then I got really angry.”
Mr Sparshott, 52, added: “Instead of being a nice surprise for our family it turned into a nightmare. I was furious.
“In these worrying times we understand the need for caution, but surely a quiet word when he first saw us would have stopped all this unpleasantness.”
The couple, who had been visiting their daughter, who lives in Gosport, Hants, with her husband and children, returned to Spain in shock.
They wrote a letter of complaint to the centre, and received a reply from manager Pam Gillard who said taking photos was a security risk.
In the reply to the Sparshotts, Ms Gillard said: “By the sounds of it my officers/duty manager didn’t explain the position very clearly and for that I apologise.”
Speaking after the incident, she added: “Fareham Shopping Centre is private property and has a policy to support the security of the shops, where the taking of photographs needs prior permission.
“The Sparshotts are welcome back to the centre.”
Ms Gillard refused to comment further on the centre’s security policies, but added that the camera ban was not because of a terrorist threat.
The situation has amazed civil rights campaigners, who say the centre’s reaction was ‘completely over the top’.
Roger Smith, director of civil liberties group Justice, said: “The key is proportionality – it is quite reasonable to have restrictions on what people can do, but this is just daft.
“It seems completely over the top.”