The police have seized several dolls from the White Hart Inn in Grays, Essex, after receiving a complaint from a customer who felt racially distressed. The landlord, Christopher Ryley, who has posted far-right views and jokes about lynching on his Facebook page, denies that he is racist and claims that he has a right to display the dolls.
He is due to be questioned by the police next month. The police are investigating whether he intended to cause offence or incite racial hatred by displaying the dolls, which could amount to a racially aggravated behaviour under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.
Alternatively, he could face a civil action under the Equalities Act 2010 for providing an unequal service to customers and staff. The case raises questions about the limits of free speech and political correctness in a multicultural society
The display of the ‘golliwog dolls’ in an Essex pub has sparked a controversy over whether it constitutes a hate crime or a harmless collection. Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary even wading in earlier this week in reprimanding and questioning Essex Police over sending a team of hate crime officers to collect the dolls from the pub, however it now appears the landlord and his wife are also openly racist and racially antagonistic within their posts on their Facebook pages.
The ‘Golliwog dolls’ are based on a racist caricature of black people that originated in the 19th century and was popularised by a jam company in the 20th century. The word golliwog has been used to dehumanise and insult black people, and is considered highly offensive by media regulators.
Ryley posted a picture of golliwogs hanging from his bar on Facebook in March 2016. His wife asked if it was legal.
The landlord is is due to be interviewed by Essex police next month, to establish whether he intended to cause offence by displaying the golliwogs. He was previously asked by his local council to explain the reason for displaying the offensive golliwogs in his pub’s bar, and denied they were racist. He said that many customers brought the items in from their travels and had never complained.
His wife Benice Ryley has since replaced the dolls, and Christopher Ryley has been approached for comment.
Chris Philp, the policing minister, said it was “up to police to decide how they respond to incidents”. Sunder Katwala, director of the integration thinktank British Future, said it is important that police can do their job and that the council and police should not allow the display of golliwogs in pubs.