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.’
‘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.