Golly! Three in Trouble for Offence

Simon de Bruxelles, Times (London), March 4, 2006

Police released three suspects yesterday after admitting that they had been held in custody for several weeks just because they were black.

This might have been a big story, except that they were golliwoggs.

The dolls were seized from the window of a shop on suspicion of causing “alarm, harassment or distress” under Section 5 of the Public Order Act when West Mercia police received a complaint from a passer-by. They were returned to the custody of shopkeeper Donald Reynolds, owner of Pettifer’s hardware and general store in Bromyard, Herefordshire, after an investigation.

A police spokesman said that no further action was being taken but that Mr Reynolds had been advised not to display them “insensitively” in future.

The spokesman added: “Officers consulted appropriate partner agencies and the Crown Prosecution Service. No offences have been identified and the items will be returned. Suitable advice about the sensitivities of placing such items on display is being provided to the store owner. West Mercia Constabulary considers the matter to be closed.”

Mr Reynolds said that he had been the victim of “a ridiculous farce” which began with a phone call from police as he sat down to lunch on February 12. He was asked to bring a key to the shop, where he found an officer. “He said, ‘I’ve come about the gollies. We’ve had a complaint they are causing offence’. I couldn’t believe it, “ Mr Reynolds said.

The officer then clambered into the window display, among the fire grates and bird feeders, and seized the dolls. Although it is legal to sell the dolls, Mr Reynolds was warned that putting them on display could be judged offensive.

He said that he had bought 100 golliwoggs in three sizes and they had been selling like “hot cakes” at £2.99, £4.99 and £7.99. Many of his customers had a golly as a child and were delighted to find them on sale.

He added: “When I realised what the police wanted with me that day I thought, this is society gone mad. When the police said they had received a complaint I thought I was on Candid Camera.”

Mr Reynolds now intends to auction the “Jailbird Gollies” for charity.

DOLL BORN IN ANOTHER AGE

Golliwoggs—spelt with a double “g”—first made their appearance in a children’s story by the American writer Florence Kate Upton 110 years ago

They subsequently appeared in a number of books by Enid Blyton

The Golly was adopted as the logo of Robertson’s, the preserve manufacturers, which rejected suggestions that it was a racist caricature

They were dropped by the company five years ago for being “old-fashioned”

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