Man arrested for stealing electricity for charging his iPhone on overground train that was meant for cleaning staff

A man was arrested under suspicion of “abstracting electricity” after he tried to charge his iPhone in a socket on a train.

Artist Robin Lee, a 45-year-old man who lives in Islington, was stopped by the police and handcuffed and taken to a British Transport Police station on Caledonian Road following the incident on an overground train last Friday. The sockets on overground trains are reserved for the use of cleaning staff.

When Lee objected to his prior arrest, he was then arrested on a second offence of “unacceptable behavior” for “becoming aggressive”.

A police spokesman said a “decision on further action would be made in due course”.

On July 10, Lee was traveling on a train from Hackney Wick and got off at Camden Road, where police community support officers were waiting for him on the platform, he told The Evening Standard. The Overground is part of Transport For London’s wider network that also includes London Underground and the buses.

“She said I’m abstracting electricity. She kept saying it’s a crime. We were just coming into the station and there happened to be about four police officers on the platform.

“She called to them and said: ‘This guy’s been abstracting electricity, he needs to be arrested’.”

Under Section 13 of the Theft Act 1968, abstracting electricity is an offence that carries a maximum imprisonment sentence of five years.

He was arrested and taken to a British Transport Police station in Caledonian Road after trying to push past the officers, where he was de-arrested on the offence of stealing electricity.

“They should never have arrested me,” he said.

Lee, who tweeted about the incident and posted a picture of his arrest sheet which has since been deleted, went on to tell The Evening Standard: “I was just incredulous. It was an overzealous community support officer. They should never have arrested me, they knew it was ridiculous. The whole thing was just ridiculous.”

In a statement, a spokesman for British Transport Police (BTP) said: “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 onboard 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. He was further arrested for unacceptable behaviour and has been reported for this offence.”

Electricity sockets on Overground trains are clearly marked with the words: “cleaners use only and not for public use”.

The members pointed out on the forum devoted to the London Underground that when trains are in depots, the plug sockets on the trains are for deployed for cleaning equipment. Since there is a risk of power surge, they suggest not to charge electronic equipments: “If something was directly plugged into it (for example a standard computer, or a laptop without a battery in) the equipment would probably be damaged at any section gaps where the power supply changes from one substation to another!”

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