Back on February 12th, I posted on my blog, a post entitled Racism, Humour & Police Oppression when I expressed my views on the actions of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) in seizing all copies of a fanzine on sale at Old Trafford before the Man U v Liverpool game on 11th February.
The police chief in charge of the operation was quoted as saying
Match commander Chief Superintendent Mark Roberts said: “Shortly before kick-off we were made aware that a Manchester United supporters’ fanzine being sold outside Old Trafford featured a potentially offensive image.
“Officers are now seizing the fanzines and in consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service we will take appropriate action against anyone either found selling this particular fanzine or provocatively displaying the image in public.
“Officers have also been made aware of a t-shirt on sale outside the ground that is also deemed to be offensive.
“We are also seizing these items and anyone found wearing one will be required to remove it and hand it to police.
“At this stage we have arrested one man in relation to the t-shirts on suspicion of a racially-aggravated public order offence and we will be continuing to work with the clubs to minimise the impact of the image, which we consider to be offensive.
“I have taken this cause of action as both items are potentially offensive and we cannot be in a situation where hundreds or thousands of people were displaying offensive images at a football match.
Well today, the head of the CPS for Greater Manchester, Lancashire & Cumbria, issued the following statement:
CPS decides no further action in ‘Red Issue’ fanzine matter
Nazir Afzal, Chief Crown Prosecutor, CPS North West Area said:
“I have decided that no further action will be taken in relation to allegations surrounding the publication and distribution of the ‘Red Issue’ fanzine at Old Trafford football ground on 11 February 2012.
“During the investigation into the matter by Greater Manchester Police, the issue of potential incitement to racial hatred was raised. As result I consulted the CPS’s Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, who are responsible for advising on suspected cases of incitement.
“Following this consultation I have received advice from a senior lawyer in that Division that although the fanzine distributed may have been offensive to some people, there was insufficient evidence to prove that the content was intended to stir up racial hatred, or that it was or likely to do so. I have therefore concluded there is insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction for incitement to racial hatred against any person.
“It is not a crime to possess material that is threatening, abusive or insulting, or hold views which others may find unpleasant and obnoxious. It is a crime to distribute this sort of material to the public, if it is intended to stir up racial hatred, or in circumstances where it is likely to have that effect.
“In the file sent to us by the police we were also asked to give advice in relation to slogans on t-shirts seized at Old Trafford on the same day. I have decided also that no further action should be taken in relation to that material.”
The statement makes it very clear to me that the CPS wanted nothing to do with any prosecution because there were no offences there and that this material was neither offensive nor likely to stir up racial hatred. It was in fact a strong anti racist point that was being made. Oh and the “mask” might have fitted a Gerbil, but nothing larger than that. it was on the back of a small A5 size magazine.
So, where does that leave Chief Superintendent Mark Roberts? Acting in a manner that is way outside his powers it seems. At the time of those fanzines being seized, Private Eye, which was also on sale at stores around Old Trafford where Red Issue was being sold had a similar picture in of people in Klu Klux Klan outfits and described them as Chelsea Captain John Terry & friends. As the current Private Eye stated ( before today’s announcement)
“No charge has been brought so far [against Red Issue] and nor has Inspector Knacker seized any copies of EYE 1307 with a similar gag featuring white hooded “football –fans” backing John Terry.”
I hope the publishers of Red Issue now sue GMP and its legally incompetent and freedom restricting Chief Superintendent Mick Roberts who clearly does not understand he has to act within the law and is not judge and jury.
RED ISSUE 1 GMP 0 (Own goal by Chief Superintendent Mark Roberts)
Stand up for Freedom – its time us football fans stood up for our rights. We do not lose our legal rights simply because we want to attend football matches despite what the police may like to think.