Youtuber Maxpaws has just a handful of videos on his Youtube channel recording his encounters with Hampshire Police. Most of them document the typical Mexican stand-off you might expect from cops confronted by a member of the public who refuses to do precisely what he doesn’t have to do. Some of the videos show officers assaulting the cameraman simply because they don’t like being recorded; despite the fact that it is perfectly lawful to record the police.
When some of the officers in the videos, discovered them on Youtube, they began trolling the comments section, almost as fast as Maxpaws could delete them.
A few weeks later, he had a knock at his door from two uniformed officers. They insisted he allow them inside so that they could ‘have a word’ about his Youtube channel. Maxpaws wisely refused to allow them in and insisted they leave. Promptly after, he telephoned an Inspector at Portswood Police Station to ask why on earth two cops had come to his door to enquire about a perfectly lawful Youtube channel. The police reiterated that they just wanted to ‘have a word’ and invited him to the station. Mr. Paws said he would happily come along on the proviso that he could video the conversation. The police, in typically camera-shy form, declined. The Inspector concluded the call by stating that, as far as he was concerned, the matter was dropped.
Then, a few days ago, a letter from Hampshire Police landed on Maxpaws mat. The author – Inspector Sharman Wicks – breathlessly informed him that his Youtube channel had ‘triggered an investigation’, and that he was the ‘main suspect’ and could expect to be ‘prosecuted by the police’s legal team’ if he did not ‘delete the channel’.
And what would he be prosecuted for exactly?… For the egregious offence of causing ‘concern that police officers names were being used in a slanderous way’.
Inspector Wicks doesn’t state in the letter what this ‘slander’ is or where it appears on Mr. Paws’ channel, but as she previously mentions libel, perhaps she’s referring to some of the ‘coarser’ expressions that appear in the video titles:
Maxpaws does also include some rather explicit remarks in the description box of his videos, but certainly no more explicit than some of the comments that have appeared on this website, describing officers, over the years. Also, given the rather heavy handed treatment some of the officers display in the videos, I’d say most of those insults are well deserved. But if sweary remarks on Youtube, describing one officer as a ‘fat cunt’ and another as ‘having ears like dumbo’, is enough to have hardened law enforcers firing off threats of prosecution for hurt feelings, then these must be the only comments on Youtube they have ever read; despite the fact that police officers at Portswood Police Station seem to have an awful lot of free time on their hands.
Apart from confusing slander with libel, there are two other things in Inspector Wicks’ letter that are wrong. Twenty, if you include all the grammar and spelling mistakes. The first error is that no matter how desperately Wicks chooses to scandalise Maxpaws’ comments, neither slander nor libel is a criminal offence. It is a civil matter that falls entirely outside of the concerns of the police.
Secondly, it is a well established legal principal in Derbyshire Council v Times Newspapers that local authorities must be open to criticism and cannot be allowed to sue in defamation, let alone use the resources of their tax funded legal departments to sue the very people they work for. To allow the local authority to sue anyone who speaks ill of them, would interfere with the public’s freedom of expression under Article 10 of the ECHR. As well as potentially denying just about everyone in Britain a good topic of conversation.
Turning the tables, it is in fact Inspector Wicks who risks finding herself on the receiving end of court action. Abusing the powers of her office as a way of silencing police critics could be considered an improper exercise of police powers and privileges. This is a criminal offence under Section 26 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015:
(1) A police constable listed in subsection (3) commits an offence if he or she—
(a) exercises the powers and privileges of a constable improperly, and
(b) knows or ought to know that the exercise is improper.
(4) For the purposes of this section, a police constable exercises the powers and privileges of a constable improperly if—
(a) he or she exercises a power or privilege of a constable for the purpose of achieving—
(i) a benefit for himself or herself, or
(ii) a benefit or a detriment for another person, and
An ironic provision really, considering that the very people you will have to report this offence too, are the very people who committed it in the first place.
Perhaps then it would be more appropriate for Maxpaws to make an application for Judicial Review to discontinue Inspector Wicks’ investigation. After all, if the police are conducting a criminal investigation into civil matters, that would mean they are acting ultra vires and their decision could be subject to the scrutiny of the High Court. Hampshire police could then find themselves issued with a court order to expunge their decision. That said, judicial review is notoriously expensive and slow, and rarely do they grant compensation.
So, perhaps a better route would be a good old fashioned claim in the county court under the Human Rights Act which states:
6. Acts of public authorities.
It is unlawful for a public authority to act in a way which is incompatible with a Convention right.
(1) A person who claims that a public authority has acted (or proposes to act) in a way which is made unlawful by section 6(1) may—
(a) bring proceedings against the authority under this Act in the appropriate court or tribunal, or
(b) rely on the Convention right or rights concerned in any legal proceedings,
but only if he is (or would be) a victim of the unlawful act.
The convention rights that Hampshire police have stomped their over-sized hobnailed boots all over, would be Article 10 and Article 8. And, for Wicks’ torturous abuse of logic and grammar, why not toss in Article 3 for kicks.
All in all I’d say that’s three possible ways that Maxpaws could bring court action against Inspector Wicks, as opposed to Mzzz Wicks’ chances of bringing court action against Maxpaws, which number somewhere around the zero mark.
The ‘T’ Word
Before I go, I can’t resist commenting on the truly idiotic non sequitur contained in Wicks’ letter that blathers:
It has also been pointed out that due to the current threat of terrorism that it [the Maxpaws Youtube channel] could be used to locate the whereabouts of officers living in Southampton.
Wicks fails to explain why any terrorists would be interested in locating the whereabouts of Southampton Police Officers, nor how Maxpaws video channel would assist them in doing so. Are police officers so scarce on Southampton streets that a terrorist would have to resort to Youtube to find them, then? Or is Inspector Wicks just spouting yet more bollocks?
What this comment demonstrates is that a police officer will never miss an opportunity to use the dreaded ‘T’ word as a catch-all excuse for bludgeoning the public into surrendering their civil liberties; all for the good of the force. The fact that it is the PUBLIC who are the constant targets of terrorists, and not the police, is lost on demented civil servants like Wicks, who seem to think that their own preservation trumps that of the public they are paid to serve.