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
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Bafetibis Gomis of Swansea City is stretchered off at White Hart Lane
Jerry Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
peopleSitcom star urges men to be more supportive of women than ever
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
footballLouis van Gaal is watching a different Manchester United and Wenger can still spring a surprise
The spider makes its break for freedom
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Arts and Entertainment
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United player ratings
Life and Style
love + sex
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot