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Thursday, August 13, 1998 Published at 01:32 GMT 02:32 UK


Police seize 'offensive' pig posters

Welsh's novel tells the story of a corrupt Edinburgh policeman

Police have been accused of censorship after they seized copies of a poster from a shop window showing a pig in a officer's helmet.

The posters, promoting cult author Irvine Welsh's latest book Filth, were on display at independent book store October Books in Southampton, Hampshire.

Supt Graham Wyatt: "Officer's decision was fully justified"
The police have been strongly criticised for confiscating them by the bookshop's owners and civil rights campaigners.

Officers seized the posters after spotting them in the shop window and now police say they may pass the matter onto the Crown Prosecution Service.

[ image: Police found this image offensive]
Police found this image offensive
Welsh is an award-winning author whose other controversial novels include Trainspotting, which was made into a hit movie starring Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle.

Liz Farrat, campaign manager for the civil rights group Liberty criticised the police for being "over-sensitive", calling the move a "ridiculous over-reaction".

"The threat of criminal sanctions over what is a light-hearted derogatory image will do little to enhance public confidence in the police," she said.

Andrew Borman, who works in the bookshop: "No-one else singled out"
Stunned staff at the shop could do nothing as police pulled down the posters and confiscated them as evidence.

Shop worker Liz Carter said: 'The police said it was the first time they had seen the poster and they found it offensive."

She said their actions amounted to censorship and accused the police of "misusing" the law.

[ image: October Books displayed the posters in their window]
October Books displayed the posters in their window
"The officers were upset but although the book can hardly be said to present a positive depiction of the police, the image is supposed to be lighthearted," she said.

'If the poster is so offensive why didn't they seize copies of the book as well?"

City police confirmed that the posters were seized under the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act which deals with offensive and obscene material.

Under the act there is an offence of "intentionally causing harrassment, alarm or distress through threatening, abusive or insulting words, behaviour or displays".

Such an offence carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison and/or a 5,000 fine.

Books were not seized

The BBC's Jeremy Howells: "Publishers will bear cost of any action against bookshop"
Sergeant Peter Maule confirmed that one of his men had seized the poster and was putting in a report to a senior officer.

He said a decision will then be made as to whether the matter should be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service.

"The officer acted on his own initiative and was quite within his rights to seize the posters," said Sergeant Maule.

"I have looked at them and I find them offensive."

Sgt Maule stressed that the books were not seized, even though they present the same image, because they were not in public view.

[ image: The posters were prominently displayed]
The posters were prominently displayed
He said: "This material was visible from the street in a prominent display in the window which the officer saw as he drove past."

Filth was published last week and, despite receiving mixed reviews, is selling well.

It tells the story of single-minded career cop, Bruce Robertson, who "spirals through the lower reaches of degradation and evil" in a "dark, disturbing and very funny novel about sleaze, power and the abuse of everything".

The Booksellers Association has now taken up the case.

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