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.