A MAN who photographed police while he was on a trip to buy fish and chips was searched under legislation designed to stop al-Qaeda bombers.

Stephen Russell, 59, spotted police swarming Kidlington High Street and, as he had his camera with him, he took four photos because it was unusual to see so much action in the centre of the village.

An officer demanded the ex-RAF engineer deleted the photos, but Mr Russell, of Thrupp, refused because it is not illegal to photograph police in a public place.

One officer then searched him. A form handed to Mr Russell after the incident reveals he was searched using powers under Section 43 of the Terrorism Act.

This legislation gives officers the power to stop and search a suspect ‘they reasonably suspect to be a terrorist’.

Mr Russell said: “They told me to delete the photos and I said ‘no’.

“It is not illegal and he should have known it is not illegal.

“There was nothing wrong with taking photos of police in the street but he would not listen. I thought if I tried to stop him it could turn nasty.”

Mr Russell, a boatman known locally as Maffi, turned out his pockets and the officer used his bank card to carry out an identification and criminal records check.

When the details came back clear, Mr Russell demanded paperwork for the stop-and-search.

The form says Mr Russell was stopped for ‘taking pictures on High Street, Kidlington, of police. Refused all details. Not recognised by officers’.

It names Pc Steve Burchett as using Section 43 legislation to carry out the search at 5pm on Wednesday, February 17.

Mr Russell plans to submit a complaint to Thames Valley Police, and added: “He used the Terrorism Act to search me. I’m not a terrorist.”

Home Office figures show 352 people have been stopped and searched under terrorism legislation in the Thames Valley between April 2007 and July last year.

No-one in Oxfordshire has been charged under the Terrorism Act.

In December Andy Trotter, chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers’ Media Advisory Group, wrote to all forces to urge common sense when using the legislation, pointing out everyone has a right to take photos in public places.

Police spokesman Daniel Donovan said officers were called to the High Street at about 4.15pm after a gang hurled a bottle at a woman passer-by. Officers arrived and the louts were told to move on.

Supt Howard Stone said Mr Russell’s incident would only be looked at if a complaint was received.

He added: “If the man who was involved in this incident was not happy with the police officer’s actions then we would advise him to submit an official complaint.”

Last February, hundreds of photographers protested against police harassment outside Scotland Yard. On January 23, a similar protest was held at Trafalgar Square as part of the ‘I’m a photographer not a terrorist’ campaign.

Stewart Gibson, spokesman for the Bureau of Freelance Photography, said: “It is part of common law that it is not illegal to take photos in a public place.

“Unfortunately, because of the way these terrorist laws are being misinterpreted, police are being very heavy-handed.”