Racism through our letterboxes

Information on this page supplied by Positive Action in Housing in response tothe distribution of BNP leaflets during the European election campaign

Positive Action in Housing today tried to lodge a complaint with the police about receiving a BNP leaflet delivered by the Royal Mail which we find insulting and abusive. The police refused to record the complaint.

Our complaint was that we found the leaflet offensive, threatening, insulting and abusive and stirring up racial hatred, contrary to the Public Order Act. Our staff member was told it was her ‘personal opinion’ and that we should just bin it like everyone else. She persisted and insisted something should be done about it. It was only when she asked for the names of the inspector and the officer she was dealing with that the police officer went to call headquarters. We were then told that Strathclyde Police were liasing with the Procurator Fiscal. The police officer refused to record the complaint or take any details and said the complaint would not be taken down officially because until the headquarters told them what to do they didn’t as police officers know what to do. We are outraged that this is how Strathclyde Police deals with potential public order offences.

Background

"I am astounded that the police and the Crown office are failing to take action against the BNP when it contains abusive, insulting material likely to stir up racial hatred. The Public order act was brought into deal with racism and the authorities time and again seem to be failing to take any action. If they refuse to take action then black and refugee communities have every right to defend themselves when they get fascist leaflets through their door. So are they going to protect our communities or not?"
Aamer Anwar, Human Rights lawyer.

Since Thursday 20, May, Positive Action in Housing has had more than 50 complaints of racist literature sent by the British 'Nazi' Party (BNP) delivered courtesy of H.M. Royal Mail.

Royal Mail - doing its duty?

Leaflets were reported mailed to: Anderston, Bearsden, Bishopbriggs, Borders, Broomhill, Carrbridge (Inverness-shire), Cessnock and Ibrox, Clarkston, Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, Cumnock, Ayrshire, Dennistoun, Drem area of East Lothian, East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Haddington, East Lothian, Kelvinbridge, Kelvingrove park area, Kirkcaldy, Fife, Kirkintilloch, East Dumbarton, Lanark, Larkhall, South Lanarkshire, Milngavie, Netherlee, Newlandsmuir East Kilbride, North of Glasgow, Perth, Possilpark, Glasgow, Red Road (Sighthill), Renfrewshire, Robroyston, Royston, Scottish Borders, South Lanarkshire, Stepps, North Lanarkshire.

The Royal Mail says that this is legitimate electioneering and they are legally obliged to deliver the BNP's hate message. We don't think so. We believe that the BNP's election leaflet is not a legitimate election pamphlets - it is incitement to racial hatred in the guise of a political campaign (which is against the law).

Many supporters have expressed outrage that "lies and nazi propaganda" is allowed to be delivered alongside other election material by the ROYAL MAIL. We think the Royal Mail should challenge the law.

Communication Workers' Union

THE CWU in opposing the BNP and last week launched a campaign in Bristol to urge members not to deliver election material for the British National Party in the run-up to the Euro elections on June 10.

We contacted the Communications Workers Union (Glasgow) to ask if they would be urging postal workers not to deliver election material for the British National Party and the branch secretary said that they could not. We were informed that it is up to individual workers to decide whether they feel they can deliver it.

We are aware that there is an argument going on among postal workers about whether to deliver the leaflets and that some CWU members have refused to deliver the leaflet officially and unofficially. One person from Dundee rang her local office after receiving the leaflet and the post worker who answered was delighted to hear from her as she was one of a group of workers in that office refusing to deliver the leaflets.

"Election" Leaflet - incitement to racial hatred?

  • Many people believe that the contents of the BNP's election' leaflet is insulting and abusive towards visible minorities and asylum seekers. The leaflet has been described as: "an anti-'asylum seeker/refugee/east european/romany rant on one side and a 'frighten the people' rant on crime on the other. Usual economic twaddle about cost of asylum and using this money for 'British' people's services."
  • bizarre claims. (e.g. "The government plans to spend £125 billion building five cities the size of Birmingham to house 5 million new immigrants!!! 97% of all asylum applications are found to be bogus!! There are 2 million illegal immigrants and asylum seekers in Britain already etc. etc.)"
  • In October 2002, a man was convicted of inciting racial hatred under the Public Order Act by sending hundreds of hate-filled leaflets in Pollokshields. He was found guilty by Sheriff Linda Ruxton of distributing "threatening, insulting and abusive" literature and stirring up racial hatred, contrary to the Public Order Act. The sheriff said the claims in the leaflet were "inaccurate" and clearly targeted at members of the Pakistani community in Pollokshields, even though they did not explicitly say so. "Despite its disingenuous drafting, the intent of the leaflet is clear," the sheriff told the court. "Any attempt, if such an attempt there was, to circumvent the legislation and defeat parliament's intention has failed."

Party political broadcast in Scotland - incitement to racial hatred?

In Scotland the far-right party's hate message is to be stepped up with a party political broadcast scheduled to be broadcast on BBC television on 27th May with a showing on BBC2 Scotland at 1755 hrs and on BBC1 Scotland at 1855hrs. Independent broadcasters, STV and Grampian will also be showing the same party political broadcast on the 27th May at 2300hrs. The broadcast will exploit Kriss Donald's death in an effort to win its first seat in the forthcoming European parliamentary elections. Kriss's death will be used to "illustrate the failure of multi-culturalism", according to the BNP's leading candidate in Scotland, Steve Blake.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Complain and highlight that the BNP's 'electioneering' is nothing less than incitement to racial hatred

If you believe that the BNP is inciting racial hatred with its most recent 'election' leaflet then write and complain to the following:

  1. Your local delivery or sorting office:
    Complain to the managers about receiving offensive/racist literature at your home/office and that you consider it to be incitement to racial hatred. Also ask to speak to the CWU representative where possible so that you can give support and encouragement to the postal workers refusing to deliver the leaflets. Check the phone book or www.yell.co.uk
  2. Your local MP or MSP
    - complain about receiving racist propaganda that is inciting racial hatred. www.faxyourmp.com
  3. CRE Scotland
    The Tun, 12 Jackson's Entry, off Holyrood Road, Edinburgh,EH8 8PJ
    tel 0131 524 2000, fax 0131 524 2001, textphone 0131 524 2018
    Complain to the CRE about the leaflet being incitement to racial hatred and ask about making a legal complaint - see "incitement to racial hatred"
  4. Royal mail:
    • Customer Services, Freepost RM1 1AA
    • Dr Tom Begg OBE JP (Chair) Postwatch Scotland
      Queen Margaret University College, Clerwood Terrace, Edinburgh, EH12 8TS, Fax: 0131 334 3972
      Website: www.postwatch.co.uk
      The role of Postwatch is to protect, promote and develop the interests of all customers of postal services in the UK.
    • Mr J Brown (Scottish Secretary Communication workers union):
      2b,Craigpark, Dennistoun, Glasgow,G31 2NP,fax: 0141 554 8736
  5. Ken MacQuarrie, Controller Scotland, BBC
    Queen Margaret Drive, Glasgow, G12
  6. Scottish Television Ltd, 200 Renfield Street, Glasgow, G2 3PR
    Tel: (0141) 300 3000
  7. Grampian TV
    Television centre, craigshaw business park, west tullos, aberdeen ab12 3qh

RESOURCES:

UNISON to mobilise anti-BNP vote

The BNP are standing four candidates in the Scotland Euro Constituency. UNISON is a 'registered third party' in the election and will be campaigning with its members and others to maximise the vote and to ensure no racist candidate slips in by the back door. UNISON has distributed a briefing about the far-right parties candidates to its branches, ordered UK campaigning material, and will be producing material specifically opposing the BNP in Scotland. They are concerned that, with the proportional nature of the Euro vote a low turn-out means that even a relatively small racist vote risks them picking up a seat. For Further Information Please Contact: Dave Anderson (UNISON President) 07909 680 832(m) Chris Barter (Communications Officer) 0870 7777 006(w) 0771 558 3729(m)

Some of the complaints received so far

  • My politically aware 13 year old was outraged and put it in the recycling bin, so I can't forward it on to you, but it'll be identical to others in South Lanarkshire.
  • I was very angry about my children being exposed to this dangerous propaganda - but thankfully at 11 & 13 they recognise it as such!
  • I work in the Possilpark area of Glasgow, and received a BNP leaflet through the post last Monday, re. the European elections. One side of the leaflet specifically targeted asylum seekers- the other was the usual 'Britain for the British' type rubbish. I would imagine they are targeting the North of Glasgow due to the asylum seeker population in the area.
  • The leaflet appears to be no more than an attempt to inflame ill-informed extreme opinions. I am particularly concerned that the Post Office (if it was them) should be delivering these.
  • You may have heard this already, but I stay in the Borders, and was horrified to receive a BNP leaflet in a mailshot on Saturday morning.
  • On my return from work I discovered a BNP leaflet among the normal mail and I am furious and angry how the Royal Mail dares to throw these lies and nazi propaganda messages through our doors. It is absolutely outrageous.
  • I live in the small village of Carrbridge, some 25 miles south of Inverness. A BNP leaflet entitled 'Asylum is Making Britain Explode' was in our mailbox this morning.
  • We received a BNP leaflet in the office today - a bit of a cheek sending it to a human rights org don't you think? It's in the bin where it belongs.
  • I received BNP literature through my door in Perth this week. It arrived along with my personal mail and party political literature for the European Elections, so I assume that it was all delivered by the Post Office. The focus of the BNP literature was asylum seekers.
  • I was horrified to receive a BNP leaflet at my home which is in the Anderston area. The leaflet was linking refugee and asylum seeking with terrorist activity.
  • A refugee also told me last night that flats in Royston had had BNP leaflets thro the door.
  • I had a BNP European election communication last week in Haddington, East Lothian. Very nasty and I've binned it.
  • They are also leafleting East Dunbartonshire area. I was appalled yesterday to receive a leaflet with BNP nonsense about asylum seekers which quite frankly could be said to insight racial hatred. It was delivered with my mail so the Post Office is obviously doing it for them, which I find outrageous.
  • The Post Office, I believe, normally delivers the usual party leaflets, doesn't it? The BNP leaflet came in through my door this morning (postal delivery time) at the same time a Labour party leaflet was delivered and was simply a two sided A5 flyer, no envelope (with contact details restricted to a PO Box number.)
  • I too received the offensive leaflet last week. In the Kelvin constituency office, we have had one frightened Asian constituent who found a whole pile of them on her door mat. We have also had a constituent complaining to Pauline McNeill by email that when she complained to the delivery office they told her to contact the political party of her choice to take the matter up.

Incitement to racial hatred offences

Incitement to racial hatred offences are contained in Part III of the Public Order Act 1986. These apply to the use or display of material that is "threatening, abusive and insulting". It is an offence to use or publish insulting or abusive words (or behaviour) with an intention to stir up racial hatred or, in the circumstances, racial hatred is likely to be stirred up. Racial hatred is defined as hatred against a group of persons in Great Britain defined by reference to colour, race, nationality - including citizenship - or ethnic or national origins.

When assessing whether material is "threatening, abusive and insulting" the context and overall effect of the material are taken into account. Threatening language, offensive remarks targeted against a racial group and images with known racist connotations are all indicators of a potential offence.

In October 2002, a man was convicted of inciting racial hatred under the Public Order Act by sending hundreds of hate-filled leaflets in Pollokshields BNP man guilty of hate campaign . He was found guilty by Sheriff Linda Ruxton of distributing "threatening, insulting and abusive" literature and stirring up racial hatred, contrary to the Public Order Act. The sheriff said the claims in the leaflet were "inaccurate" and clearly targeted at members of the Pakistani community in Pollokshields, even though they did not explicitly say so. “Despite its disingenuous drafting, the intent of the leaflet is clear," the sheriff told the court. "Any attempt, if such an attempt there was, to circumvent the legislation and defeat parliament's intention has failed."