Will Self questioned by police on walking holiday with his son
What has England become when a father hiking with his son is suspected of being a 'sexual predator'?
NOVELIST Will Self is no stranger to darkly satirical, sometimes fantastical fiction. But his account of the bizarre events that befell him when he took his 11-year-old son walking in the Yorkshire countryside is disturbing because it is entirely true.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Self says he was pulled over by police and questioned on suspicion of being a paedophile after he and his son were seen hiking together.
"No 11-year-old child should have to see his parent treated like a criminal for no reason whatsoever," writes Self. "And no Englishman enjoying a ramble with his son should face examination by police at the roadside on suspicion of being a sexual predator."
Self, 51, says an enjoyable walk in the countryside turned into an ordeal when he asked a security guard at Bishop Burton College if he and his son could take a short-cut across the grounds of the agricultural college.
The guard refused permission and mentioned there were "under 18-year-olds at the college," writes Self. "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 son. He was being absurd and offensive."
Two hours later, Self and his son were walking on the verge of a B-road when a police car and police van pulled up alongside them. He was questioned by a male officer who had brought a female officer with him "since there was a presumption that a child might have to be taken into custody".
Self says the officer confirmed to him that it was the security guard who had contacted the authorities. Luckily for the novelist, commonsense and celebrity came into play.
"He [the police officer] had already recognised me from the television: he'd seen me on Shooting Stars," wrote Self. "And he saw the absurdity of the idea that I would deliberately approach a security guard, in full walking equipment, while abducting a child."
An indignant Self asks: "Can there be a more disturbing parable of the Britain we have become?"
The author contacted Bishop Burton College asking for an apology, but says senior staff "closed ranks" because, he posits, they feared a lawsuit if they admitted any liability.
In a letter sent to Self on 12 August, the college insists their security guard alerted police "in good faith and out of concern for both of your safety".
Self insists that he had no intention of pursuing the matter in the courts. "All I wanted was an apology I could show to my son, so I could explain to him that while abuses like this may occur, Britons still understand that walking in the country with your son is not a suspicious activity and nor should it be treated that way." ·