Culture

Man charges iPhone on train, arrested for stealing electricity

Technically Incorrect: A British artist plugs his iPhone into a train power outlet. An officer of the law doesn't like that.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


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Illegal on British trains? HooHooHoblin/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

I really thought electricity was all the rage these days.

If you power your car by it, you're cool and saving the world.

Not everyone, though, seems to think you're cool if you charge your iPhone with it.

I am sizzling, you see, at the story of British artist Robin Lee. As the Standard reports, he was traveling Friday on a fine British train in London and espied a power outlet.

As many an iPhone user will attest, these things can seem like a fine chilled sauvignon blanc before a hot English country house wedding.

Lee says that he got charged up and, when he got off the train, he was arrested for allegedly stealing electricity. A person known as a police community support officer stood in his way and declared his alleged crime.

These PCSOs are civilians in uniform. Yes, just like Madonna on her finer days. Unlike Madonna, they do have some police powers, which was clearly a little unfortunate for Lee.

He told the Standard: "I was incredulous."

I know that several people will immediately sniff that the police community officer must have been an Android fan, merely enjoying some amusement.

However the British Transport Police told the Standard: "A 45-year-old man from Islington was arrested on suspicion of abstracting electricity, for which he was de-arrested shortly after."

Lee has, however, been arrested for "unacceptable behavior." This reportedly included trying to push past officers of the law.

I contacted the British Transport Police to ask whether it is, indeed, illegal to charge your iPhone on a train. This is doubly important in the tourist season, when so many Americans come to England an admire how old everything is and take photographs of it.

The answer, however, wasn't immediately comforting. A BTP spokesman told me: "The rules around using plug sockets on trains vary according to train operators."

The Standard does mention that there are signs around the power outlets saying that they're for cleaners' use only. What curious signs those must be.

If it is the case that British train power outlets are for cleaners only, I am astonished that they aren't sponsored by Samsung.

Updated, 1o:03 a.m. PT: Added comment from British Transport Police.