British writer Will Self's fury after police quiz over walk with son

Sunday 18 August 2013 22.39
Writer Will Self described the episode as "absurd and offensive"
Writer Will Self described the episode as "absurd and offensive"

The English writer and journalist Will Self has expressed anger after being stopped by police in Yorkshire while out walking with his son because he says officers suspected he was a paedophile.

The 51-year-old TV star was enjoying a long walk with his 11-year-old when a squad car and police van stopped him on a Yorkshire roadside.

Mr Self was questioned about what he and the schoolboy were doing out walking together and his details were checked on the police national computer. 

Mr Self, an enthusiastic rambler, and his son set off in July from London to Whitby, north Yorkshire, on their walking holiday.

He described the episode as "absurd and offensive".

"Can there be a more disturbing parable of the Britain we have become?"

"No Englishman enjoying a ramble with his son should face examination by police at the roadside on suspicion of being a sexual predator," he wrote in the Mail on Sunday.

A security guard called police after refusing them access to grounds for a short-cut. 

Wearing full rambling gear and with his son carrying a walking staff, the incident happened after they had crossed the Humber Bridge after 11 days on foot and were aiming to reach a bed-and -breakfast in North Dalton.

To shave some time off their walk near Beverley, Mr Self asked a security guard at a college if they could cut through the establishment's grounds.

His answer was a firm no.

"The insinuation that I might pose some sort of threat to young people - in a word, that I might be a paedophile - was underscored by his eyes then sliding to my drooping son. He was being absurd and offensive," said Mr Self. 

The guard went on to report him to the police who drafted in a specialist female officer from over 40km away "since there was a presumption that a child might have to be taken into custody", added Mr Self. 

The writer said the police officer who stopped him had already recognised him from the BBC comedy 'Shooting Stars' but still checked his details with the police database. 

"He saw the absurdity of the idea that I would deliberately approach a security guard, in full walking equipment, while abducting a child.

"Far from acting as some sort of local hero, the guard had abused a child himself, in particular by exposing my son to the spectacle of his father - who was guilty of nothing - being grilled by the police on the roadside as if he were engaged in a perverse activity."

The father-of-four said he did not want the security guard punished, but wanted an apology.  

None was forthcoming, with the school saying the guard had a second encounter with Mr Self and his son in which he overheard them talking about walking to North Dalton, so called the police out of "concern" knowing how far it was.

Mr Self added: "Of course, whether or not this is true, it was contradicted by what the policeman had told me - and I know who I'm more inclined to believe."

Keywords: will self