You better watch where you plug.
London artist Robin Lee was riding a train from Hackney Wick to Camden Road last week when he noticed his iPhone was running a little low on juice. Fortunately, there was a power socket conveniently nearby so he plugged in his charger and continued minding his own business.
But when a police community support officer on the train noticed what he was doing, she accused him of – get ready for it – illegally stealing electricity.
“She said I’m abstracting electricity,” he told the Evening Standard. “She kept saying it’s a crime.”
But it didn’t stop there. Once his train arrived at Camden Road, a group of officers actually handcuffed Lee for his heinous crime on the platform and “bundled [him] into a police van.” Luckily for him, Lee was de-arrested after being hauled off to the British Transport Police base.
For their part, a police spokesperson later explained, “We were called to Camden Road London Overground station on Friday, 10 July to a report of a man becoming aggressive when challenged by a PCSO about his use of a plug socket on board an Overground train.”
“Shortly after 3.30pm, a 45-year-old man from Islington was arrested on suspicion of abstracting electricity, for which he was de-arrested shortly after.”
For the record, stealing electricity is illegal here in Canada as well. But it’s really unlikely you’d ever get arrested for it, because cops are mostly concerned with power being illegally funneled into underground operations like grow-ops.
London transportation officials, however, defended the arrest, saying afterwards that there would have been signs near the plugs stating they’re not meant for public use. Either way, Wired points out that the cost of keeping an iPhone fully charged for a year is less than £1, so an arrest still seems like a bit of a stretch.
At the very least, we do hope that Lee built up enough of a charge on his phone to call a lawyer.