Questioned for taking a country walk with his son? Even Will Self couldn’t make it up

Dismayed author blames fear of paedophiles for warping attitudes

Striding through the fields and rich-green everglades of the Yorkshire countryside, his 11-year-old son revelling in the rural bliss and clasping his trusty walking staff, the writer Will Self was within his rights to feel free and at ease.

What was to his mind a “blameless pursuit” appeared far more sinister to a college security guard, however, who contacted the police fearing the child was being led astray.

Mr Self’s ramble was brought to an abrupt end when he was hauled over to the roadside for questioning after being stopped by convoy of police cars. A protective custody officer was waiting in the wings in case his son had to be taken in to care by the social services. Mr Self, 51, revealed the incident over the weekend, saying he had been “treated like a criminal for no reason whatsoever”. He lashed out at a national attitude in which “paedophile hysteria... seems to warp people’s reason”.

“Can there be a more disturbing parable of the Britain we have become?” asked Mr Self in an article for The Mail on Sunday.

A statement from the chief executive of the Bishop Burton College, Jeanette Dawson, has said the security guard acted out of “concern” because the two ramblers were “a long way from their intended destination”.

But Mr Self believes that he was marked out as a potential sexual predator by the guard after he asked for permission to cut through the grounds of the agricultural college during a 11-day ramble last month.

“Staring me straight in the face he said that it was out of the question. 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.”

Two hours later, Mr Self was picked up on the B1248 motorway and asked to step into one of the police cars for questioning. “I said we were walking all the way from London to Whitby... he said he understood, but that he still had to ask me some questions because they had been called by a ‘concerned member of the public’.”

The police officer checked Mr Self’s name on the police computer before recalling he had seen Mr Self on the comedy TV series Shooting Stars. The officers quickly left after receiving an emergency call to a nearby pub.

Mr Self said: “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.”

In a letter to Mr Self, the college’s human resources director Kate Calvert wrote: “I understand that the guard observed you in a village north of Bishop Burton. It was now around 7.30pm to 8.00pm and you had also told the guard you were from London and clearly did not know the area. He is adamant that in alerting the police he acted in good faith and out of concern for both of your safety.”

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
Kim Sears is reported to have directed abuse at Berdych
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
Voices
A mother and her child
voices
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballI have never seen the point of lambasting the fourth official, writes Paul Scholes
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee