Weekly could be prosecuted over racial hatred claims

Weekly newspaper the Weston Mercury could be prosecuted over allegations of inciting racial hatred in a billboard headline about a new gypsy camp.

Officers have handed a file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) over a billboard that read ‘Gypsies could be on your doorstep”, according to reports.

The poster was placed outside newsagents across the circulation area of the Weston, Worle and Somerset Mercury.

Following complaints the paper apologised and removed the billboards, but according to a report in the Daily Mail the CPS is now deciding whether to press charges.

Green Party councillor Tom Leimdorfer, who reported the issue to the police, was quoted saying: ‘I was horrified when I saw it. It was clearly inflammatory.

‘If the headline had been about black people or Muslims it would quite clearly not have been acceptable. So why should this be any different?

‘In my ward we have a community of about 200 Romany gypsy residents – some of whom have been here for generations.

‘There is a difference between saying gypsy camp planned – which would be factual – and gypsies could be on your doorstep which is connecting with people’s fears.”

The billboard related to a front-page story on March 22 on plans for a travellers’ site on the outskirts of Weston-super-Mare, headlined ‘Gypsy camps right next door to new homes”. The story itself did not prompt any complaints.

The Weston Mercury, which is owned by Archant, apologised and removed the billboard and later printed an apology on page three admitting the wording on of the poster was ‘inappropriate and may have caused offence”.

A spokesman for Avon and Somerset Police said: ‘On March 22 police recieved a number of complaints about a poster being used to advertise the Weston Mercury. Police officers made contact with the newspaper, which had also been contacted by a complainant.

‘The newspaper had taken the decision to withdraw its posters with immediate effect. They subsequently issued an apology in next week’s edition as well as a letter from the original complainant.

‘The matter has been referred to the Crown Prosecution Service.’

Leimdorfer was interviewed by police but has since said he did not wish to see the newspaper prosecuted.

  • To contact the Press Gazette newsdesk call 020 7936 6433 or email pged@pressgazette.co.uk

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