Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Thursday, November 4, 1999 Published at 17:24 GMT


Court battle over 'offensive' ad rants

Trago Mills is a household name in towns like Falmouth

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) was legally entitled to censure a businessman's outbursts against homosexuals in local newspaper adverts, a High Court judge has ruled.

In July 1998 the ASA upheld readers' complaints against newspaper adverts for Trago Mills shopping centres in Devon and Cornwall on the basis that editorial they contained was "racist, offensive and could incite violence".

The idiosyncratic adverts, run in the same style for the past 30 years, contain half a page of editorial and half a page of product adverts.

In densely-packed print, the offending text - written by a Mike Robertson aka Tripehound, a member of the family which owns Trago Mills - took a swipe at local planners and contained a plug for the Freedom Association.

It described homosexuals as "poofters" and said the young should be protected from "this foul minority".

The High Court ruling came after Trago Mills challenged the ASA, arguing it had no jurisdiction because the editorial was not part of the advert.

But the judge accepted the ASA's argument that the column always formed part of an advertisement, placed and paid for by an advertiser in a newspaper, and was therefore subject to ASA jurisdiction.

'Adverts like no other'

He said counsel for Charles Robertson (Developments) Ltd, trading as Trago Mills Regional Shopping Centres, had charitably described the column as "a farrago of political, cultural and social comments by its author".

Terry Lambert, general manager of Falmouth-based Packet Newspapers which ran one of the offending adverts, described their style as "unique".

He told BBC News Online: "They are like no other advert for a supermarket.

"Basically the company takes out a page a week in every newspaper in the south west - half a page is crammed with a political rant, the other advertises their products.

"We reserve the right to cut them to comply with the law, very occasionally the ASA intervenes and says they go to far.

"It has brought Mr Robertson a lot of publicity over the years, I would say he has featured in every national newspaper.

"His greatest bugbear at the moment is the European Union."

Freedom of speech

But the judge said a question remained over whether there had been an interference with the author's freedom of speech.

This would have to be decided at a future date, once pending human rights legislation had become part of domestic law.

The judge concluded: "On the question of what is the position once Article 10 [European Convention on Human Rights] is part of our law I would use the vernacular of advertising - watch this space."

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

UK Contents

Northern Ireland

Relevant Stories

03 Nov 99 | UK
Watchdog blasts Stern poster campaign

15 Sep 99 | UK
'Kidnapped ref' poster attacked

Internet Links

Advertising Standards Authority

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online