Tue, Oct 16, 2001
An everyday story of Dorset folk by Richard Littlejohn.
IN the week an Afghan airliner was diverted at gunpoint to Stansted, I invented a spoof gameshow called ASYLUM!
It appeared in this column under the headline: HIJACK A PLANE, WIN A COUNCIL HOUSE.
That was way back in February last year. It was a throwaway piece at the bottom of the page.
Anyway, eventually ASYLUM! turned up in a publication called ADvantage, a local giveaway shopping and services magazine, based in Verwood, Dorset (pop 8,926).
Someone gave it to the editor, who chuckled and thought it deserved a wider audience.
He received one letter of complaint from a humourless harridan, accusing him of stirring up racism, and another from a reader who found it funny.
And that was the last he heard until 8.30pm one night three months later, when there was a knock on the door of the ADvantage office, a residential address in Verwood.
There stood two police officers from Dorchester CID who demanded to see the editor.
When he asked what it was all about, they brandished a copy of the offending article and informed him that for the past three months the magazine had been under investigation by the police, the race relations commission, the Wilts and Dorset Race Relations Council and the Director of Public Prosecutions.
He was told: "The lawyers have decided that you have done nothing wrong, but it has got to stop." They insisted he give them his name.
He refused, saying if he had done nothing wrong they had no right to demand his name.
At this, they warned him to "be careful" in future otherwise he would be arrested for "inciting racial hatred".
The editor told them to leave. All this took place in front of a witness, the owner of the house in which ADvantage is produced.
After coming across ASYLUM! in "To Hell In A Handcart", the editor wrote to me wondering if I had been similarly threatened. He’s not a Sun reader and hadn’t realised that it originally appeared in this column.
He has asked me not to identify him because he is worried the police will be back. He admits annoying the local Plod by regularly using the magazine as a platform to criticise the police over speed cameras and their surrender to burglars and vandals and believes they were using ASYLUM! to get back at him.
THE Sun rang the Dorset police yesterday. The Press office was helpful and promised to look into it. When they rang back their attitude had changed and they said they wouldn’t help unless we showed them a copy of the signed letter from the editor, sent to me in confidence.
Maybe he’s got a point in wishing to remain anonymous. But as I keep reminding you, just because you’re paranoid it doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.
I asked him if he’d ever published anything else which could be accused of inciting racial hatred. He said he’d expressed doubts about the scale of bogus asylum claims but had done nothing illegal.
Since the DPP obviously agrees, I’ll take his word for it.
Just to be on the safe side, I thought I’d check out the magazine to make sure it wasn’t a front for Right-wing extremists, hell-bent on formenting race riots in Dorset.
If it is, it disguises it well. The magazine runs adverts for poultry farms, dairies, specialist food suppliers, garden sheds, pine furniture and notices on behalf of local cancer charities and coffee mornings.
The Verwood Friends Of Guides’ Duck Race - £1 a duck - and car boot sale sounds harmless enough.
So what was the justification for spending three months and involving four government agencies in investigating a 4,000-circulation freesheet over a harmless, knockabout piece of nonsense which had already appeared in Britain’s biggest-selling daily newspaper?
We keep being told this war on terrorism is in defence of our way of life, our liberties, including our right to freedom of expression, which is why Captain Hook and the other mad mullahs spewing hatred and murder against America, Britain and Israel on the streets of London are not being prosecuted.
Home Secretary David Blunkett should call the Chief Constable of Dorset, the race relations commission and the DPP and remind them.
And ask them what the hell they think they’re playing at in Dorset.
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