Don’t Charge Your iPhone On A London Train

iPhone 8JESHOOTS / Pixabay

One man learned the hard way that charging your smartphone on a London Overground train is cause for arrest.

Londoners who are considering using the electrical sockets on the trains to top up their iPhone should take heed of the story of Robin Lee. The 45-year-old artist was arrested for “abstracting electricity” on a London train.

Illicit charging lands artist in hot water

Lee saw the perfect opportunity to charge his iPhone as he traveled in London, but a police community support officer took issue with his use of the electrical socket.

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

Abstracting electricity may sound like an unlikely crime, but it is punishable under section 13 of the Theft Act 1968. Offenders face a maximum sentence of 5 years.

“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,” Lee added.

Sockets could damage your iPhone

Lee was de-arrested for the original offence, but then re-arrested for unacceptable behavior due to his reaction. Most readers are probably just as incredulous as Lee that they might be arrested for using an electrical socket to charge their iPhone, but there is a perfectly logical reason behind the rule.

The sockets are marked “cleaners use only and not for public use” not only to prevent arguments among power-hungry commuters, but to protect their devices.

“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,” according to members of a London Underground forum.

Despite the famously bad battery life of the iPhone and other smart devices, you are better off waiting to charge your device until you reach your destination to avoid any damage.

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About the Author

Brendan Byrne
While studying economics, Brendan found himself comfortably falling down the rabbit hole of restaurant work, ultimately opening a consulting business and working as a private wine buyer. On a whim, he moved to China, and in his first week following a triumphant pub quiz victory, he found himself bleeding on the floor based on his arrogance. The same man who put him there offered him a job lecturing for the University of Wales in various sister universities throughout the Middle Kingdom. While primarily lecturing in descriptive and comparative statistics, Brendan simultaneously earned an Msc in Banking and International Finance from the University of Wales-Bangor. He's presently doing something he hates, respecting French people. Well, two, his wife and her mother in the lovely town of Antigua, Guatemala. To contact Brendan or give him an exclusive, please contact him at

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