MERTON: Cheam schoolboy 'terrorist' stopped outside Wimbledon station
8:37am Thursday 30th October 2008 in News
A schoolboy taking photographs of a railway station on a geography field trip was suspected of being a terrorist.
Fabian Sabbara, 15, of Cheam, was dressed in his school uniform when he was stopped by three police community support officers for taking photos of Wimbledon station on his mobile phone.
The student from Rutlish High School, Merton, explained he was taking pedestrian counts, a traffic survey and photos as part of a GCSE project.
But PCSO Barry Reeve told Fabian to sign forms under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act, which allows police to stop and search at random anyone they suspect of terrorism.
After the incident, Fabian’s mother Clare, 30, a housewife, and father Felix, 48, an audio visual installer, contacted police to remove any record of the incident against their son’s name, and were told it had to remain in place for six years.
Scotland Yard have since wiped the record from their database, but Mr Sabbara said the incident could have had a long-term impact on Fabian’s future employment.
He said the matter had also sparked fear at Fabian’s school where trips had been banned over concerns that pupils could be stopped by police for taking pictures.
Mr Sabbara said: “Fabian was just a 15-year-old boy trying to do his school work, he had done nothing wrong.
“The point is, if this incident had remained on file it could affect him in years to come when he applies for jobs such as the RAF.
“Also if there was a terrorist attack at Wimbledon station he would be a suspect. It’s just ludicrous. There needs to be more common sense when applying this law.’’ During the incident Fabian, who was part of a small group of some 55 pupils who had split into groups, had to sign a form titled “Stop and Search Terrorism Act”.
Metropolitan Police spokesman Beverley Kassem said officers did not search him and no further action was taken.
She said: “Police have met with the boy, his family and representatives from the school to discuss the incident and reassure them of any concerns they may have.
“As a result of this meeting, schools and police will work closely on future school trips in the area.
“The record of the stop on the stop and search database has been removed.’’ Merton Council cabinet member for children’s services Councillor Debbie Shears said: “We understand this incident has been resolved directly between the police, the school and the pupil’s family.
“School trips are an integral part of a student’s life and we are working with both schools and police to see what sort of guidelines need to be developed and put in to place.”