A sandwich shop owner endured eight hours of questioning by police and had his computer seized for three weeks � after making tasteless Nelson Mandela jokes on the internet.
Neil Phillips, who runs Crumbs in Rugeley, Staffordshire, says he was also finger-printed and DNA-swabbed after officers received complaints about what he insists were harmless gags.
In one online post, the 44-year-old wrote: 'My PC takes so long to shut down I�ve decided to call it Nelson Mandela.' Mandela, the former South African leader, and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, died on Thursday, aged 95.
Mr Phillips was arrested at his home on September 10 and was taken to a police station where he was quizzed about the postings on the Rugeley Soap Box website.
He said: 'It was an awful experience. I was fingerprinted, they took DNA and my computer. 'It was a couple of jokes, Bernard Manning type. 'There was no hatred. 'You can question the taste, but they�re not hateful. I told the police they got plenty of "likes". What happened to freedom of speech? 'I think they over-reacted massively. Those jokes are "out there", anyway.
'When they took my computer, I thought, "what the hell are they looking for?" To be questioned would have been over the top, never mind arrested.'Mr Phillips admitted to once being a member of the far-right BNP, but quit 25 years ago.'They are jokes that I cut-and-pasted,' insisted Mr Phillips. 'I didn�t make them up and I didn�t put them on a public site.
'You have to sign-up and join. It�s turning into the thought police � you can�t do this, you can�t do that.
He was one of two men interviewed by police following a bitter, ill-tempered feud over plans for a mining memorial in the town centre has been ambushed by some members of the Far Right and used as a propaganda platform.
The other individual was pensioner and former miner Tom Christopher, 72, who was quizzed by police at his home in Cheadle, Greater Manchester, over claims he issued threats on the net.
The memorial dispute sank to new depths at a Rugeley Town Council meeting last week, when police ejected Mr Christopher.
He was enraged by public allegations that some of those involved in the miner's tribute were 'thugs and fascists'.
One council official admitted: 'It didn�t come to fisticuffs, but it was close.'
Cllr Jones added that he was 'deeply disturbed' an unofficial Facebook poll over the memorial has allegedly been 'influenced' by the English Defence League.
Liberal Democrat Councillor Tim Jones was so incensed by the one-liners, aired at a time when Mandela was critically ill, that he made an official complaint.
He commented under one tasteless joke: 'Attacking a 94-year-old man who is probably dying. Does the far right have an ounce of human decency?'
'The dispute is about its location. Without the involvement of extremists, people could have sat down talked about their differences and had a good chance of reaching agreement, perhaps on a survey, which most people would have accepted as fair.
'The whole affair is very sad.'
He then sent the Sunday Mercury - a Birmingham-based newspaper - screen grabs. One was of a shocking image of decapitation, another featuring a wheelchair-bound individual, both posted by Mr Phillips.
He said: 'They are vile and deeply offensive, anti-Muslim, anti-disabled.'
Staffordshire Police declined to go into detail about the nature of their interview with Mr Phillips. But a spokesman said: 'We can confirm a man was arrested in Rugeley on September 10.
'He was bailed pending further enquiries.
'When he answered bail on September 30, he was informed that there would be no further action based on CPS decision of there being insufficient evidence to support a prosecution.'
|Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the writers and do not reflect those of Peacefmonline.com. Peacefmonline.com accepts no responsibility legal or otherwise for their accuracy of content. Please report any inappropriate content to us, and we will evaluate it as a matter of priority.|