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Last Updated: Monday, 13 August 2007, 13:57 GMT 14:57 UK
What can't you have on a T-shirt?
WHO, WHAT, WHY?
The Magazine answers...

T-shirt slogan
T-shirt slogans are a well-tested means of provoking a reaction
A man is risking a fine for having an "offensive" slogan on his T-shirt. So, what can you print on one?

He thought it was a bit of a laugh, but Peterborough City Council failed to see the funny side of David Pratt's T-shirt.

He has been threatened with a 80 penalty notice after wearing a top with the slogan: "Don't piss me off! I am running out of places to hide the bodies."

After an official complaint was made to the council, street wardens told Mr Pratt his T-shirt could cause offence or incite violence. He faces an on-the-spot fine from the police if he wears it again.

Interpretation

What you can and can't print on a T-shirt is largely down to interpretation. What one person might find funny, another could find insulting - a point reinforced in the comments of Mr Pratt's wife, Elly, who bought the T-shirt in Los Angeles.

THE ANSWER
Using offensive, abusive, or insulting language is a criminal offence under the Public Order Act
This applies to printed words as well as spoken ones

Mrs Pratt doesn't consider the offending word to be a swear word. "It is not particularly nice word, but in my view is not a swear word," she said.

Using threatening, abusive, or insulting language is a criminal offence under Section 5 of the Public Order Act, even if it's printed on a T-shirt. This applies in England and Wales, in Scotland such an incident would be classed as breach of the peace, says the Law Society of Scotland.

It is not necessary for someone to have made an official complaint for the police to act, they just have to think it might offend a hypothetical third party, says criminal solicitor Louise Christian.

The legislation has been interpreted in a number of ways in recent years.

One shopkeeper was threatened with arrest for displaying a toddler's T-shirt in his shop window that had the slogan: "Winner of the egg and sperm race."

Pub sign

Police said they had received a complaint and told Tim Price the garment was offensive and would have to be removed from the window of his clothes shop in Brighton.

WHO, WHAT, WHY?
Question Mark - from original architect's doodle design for BBC TV Centre
A regular part of the BBC News Magazine, Who, What, Why? aims to answer some of the questions behind the headlines

A landlord was also ordered to remove a sign outside his pub in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, which said: "Faggots and mince not on the menu." A complaint was made to police by the previous tenants, a homosexual couple.

Probably the most high-profile row over "offensive" slogans is the French Connection advertising campaign in Britain which used FCUK.

In 2003, a shop keeper in Bishop's Stortford was asked by police to remove an "offensive" T-shirt from a front window display which depicted a drawing of a naked woman straddling her male lover, with the slogan 'the Joy of fcuk' underneath.

However, it's not clear whether the image or the wording, or both, were judged to be "offensive".

The slogan certainly riled the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which upheld 26 complaints about the logo. However, the slogan was eventually allowed in adverts after being registered as a trademark.



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