A spokesperson for the Southend Carnival Federation has issued a strong warning on the eve of the 2016 Southend Carnival that visitors must get parental permission before taking photos or videos of any float that is taking part.

Norma Stits of the SCF told Southend News Network’s Chief Reporter that the total number of photos taken without parental permission in recent years was unacceptable, and also that there will be around 100 safeguarding officers patrolling the carnival area on Saturday evening for any possible offenders.

Ms Stits added: ‘Our message is a very simple one this year. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking photos or videos of any one of the amazing display floats that are taking part in this year’s award-winning Southend Carnival. However, it is completely unacceptable to do so without getting parental permission for any children on the float who are under the age of 18 years old – there are no exceptions to this rule as we have adopted a zero-tolerance policy for 2016.’

‘Although this may sound difficult to achieve, it is likely that a number of parents will be accompanying their kids’ floats, and so it should be relatively easy to quickly ask all parents if it is OK to get a photo or a video clip. Consent only needs to be verbal as we are aware that written permission will be impractical to obtain when a float is moving at 3 mph.’

‘Our safeguarding officers will be performing random spot checks on anyone using a camera or a smartphone, and if it emerges that the parental permission for everyone in a shot hasn’t been obtained then they will have the power to confiscate these electronic devices. Any offending files will be deleted, and the devices will be available for collection at a dedicated office next to The Kursaal.’

We asked Ms Stits why the organisers had decided to take such a hard stance on people taking photos and videos this year.

She said: ‘When a photo is taken electronically, or indeed a video is recorded in the same manner, it is possible that the file will end up transmitted over the Internet or published on a social media site such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace or MSN Messenger.’

‘If anything is available online, it can be seen potentially by billions of people, and any sensible parent with a child who is taking part in the carnival would want them to be protected at all times.’

‘We are only acting on feedback received after the incident in April when a potential paedophile was caught holding a camera next to the fountains on Southend seafront. The carnival procession will proceed directly past the fountain dispersal area, and as an organisation we cannot be seen to be taking any chances whatsoever.’