Watch Out

LONDON: Although denied by the police that the practice of using agents provocateurs in Earl’s Court is happening at all, it is apparently becoming standard police procedure in that area.

The scene of these activities, which have been widely condemned, is in Wharfedale Street, which runs directly behind the popular Colherne public house. A GN newsman had heard rumours that plainclothes police officers would be in action behind the pub after ‘closing time’. This information came from two, usually reliable, independent sources, both of whom overheard the conversation of a group of five plainclothes officers.

The rumours turned into reality, for in court last week, a 34-year-old carpenter admitted persistently importuning men for a homosexual purpose. He was fined £25.

Sergeant William Smith told magistrate Mr John Hooper that after speaking to two men in Wharfedale Street, Michael (the carpenter) then approached him and asked, “Do you want to come back to my place ?”

“You weren’t in uniform, I take it?” the Marlborough Street magistrate asked him. Supposedly not, and Sergeant Smith sounds as if he must be rather attractive.

When asked by Gay News if agent provocateur methods would be a regular occurence from now on in Wharfedale Street, the station officer of Chelsea Police Station first replied, “I don’t know what you’re talking about”.

After having the question explained in more simplistic terms, he then stated, “These methods aren’t being used. Apart from that, there’s no comment I can make”

Gay News ventures to suggest that those people who may be in Wharfedale Street, or the near vicinity, late at night, should take the utmost precautions to ensure that they are not entrapped by these dubious means.

Any developments in this situation will appear in this paper.

Gay News Christmas Presents

The Gay News collective is a generous bunch, and we would love to give gorgeous Christmas presents to everyone. But we’re broke. If we had the money here are some of the presents we would give, and the people we would give them to.

To London Transport
– the stock of exhibits from the Transport Museum at Clapham to replace rolling stock on the Northern line.

To Danny La Rue
– Liberace

To Selfridges
– an instant boycott by all the gay staff and customers of the store, which might make the bookstall manager think twice before telling us there would be no call for Gay News there.

To Lord Harwood
– an LP of Leonard Bernstein’s opera Candide, hoping it would inspire him to put it on at the Coliseum instead of another Merry Widow.

To Alexander Walker (film critic of the Evening Standard)
– a secretary, so that he doesn’t crack his nails on a typewriter, thus giving away the fact that he’s a … journalist.

To Bass Charrington
– vast profits from owning the majority of gay pubs in London.

To All Gays
– a “Welcome” from Bass Charrington.

To GLF
– lilies – and thanks for the laughs.

To CHE
– carnations and a computerised membership files.

To CHE and GLF
– the capacity to love and understand (if not to agree) with each other.

To All MPs
– a copy of Gay News, so they can tune in to the realities of the situation.

To F.I. Litho
– yet another cheque for printing Gay News

To Anthony Newley
– a nice modern theatre where he can stage all his shows – in Formosa.

To The Governor of Holloway Prison
– a big bunch of flowers for allowing Myra Hindley half an hour of light and air.

To The Festival of Light
– a power cut.

To The National Theatre
– the collected plays of Oscar Wilde to remind them of what they have been ignoring these past nine years.

To The GPO
– a two year work study programme of interfering with and losing so much of our mail and for indecent relationships with our telephone.

To Mary Whitehouse
– a pair of ear plugs and a sleeping shade.

To the BBC
– the retirement of Mary Whitehouse.

To ITV and London Weekend Television
– programmes as good as the commercials.

To Sir Gerald Nabarro
– more lady chauffeurs like his last one.

To Lord Longford
– a halo.

To Malcolm Muggeridge
– an airport at the bottom of his garden.

To Edward Heath
– a cabinet made up of ex-grammar school boys.

To Harold Wilson
– a political party

To David Bowie
– an appearance at next year’s Royal Command Performance.

To Larry Grayson
– some original jokes and a black mark for telling fibs.

To Chris Welch (of Melody Maker)
– a record player and a job on the Financial Times.

To The Daily Telegraph
– a losing law suit with Private Eye.

To The Sunday Telegraph
– Richard Ingrams as editor.

To The Evening Standard
– an ad in Gay News

To Private Eye
– a bathchair on the cliffs at Hastings.

To Martin Stafford BA
– A ‘Glad To Be Gay’ badge and a lifelong subscription to Gay News.

To Chelsea Police
– a dictionary to look up the words ‘obstruction’ and ‘malicious’.

To Kensington Police
– a manual on ‘How To Care For Your Camera’

Offensive Badge

LONDON: Julie Frost, one of the GN editors and members of the paper’s editorial collective was stopped and questioned by Chelsea police, who after asking him for his name and address, took a ‘Glad to be Gay’ badge away, calling it an “offensive weapon”.

Julie was walking home to Lennox Gardens from a GLF discotheque. He turned into Pont Street and was stopped by two policemen.

The police asked Julie what he had in the carrier bag he was carrying. In it they found a copy of GN9, a GLF diary he’d been given for the GN office and his cheque book

When he was asked his name and address, Julie gave it to them. The National Council for Civil Liberties told him the next day that he should not have given his name and address. The NCCL’s legal department told Julie to complain to the Commissioner of Police at Scotland Yard against his treatment at the hands of the Chelsea Police.

The police questioned Julie about the paper in his bag and about his working for GN.

The NCCL said that, strictly speaking, Julie could bring an action for assault against his person by the policeman who removed his Glad to be Gay badge, saying it was “an offensive weapon”.

The Commissioner now has that complaint and Julie is waiting for his reply.

Guess What

LONDON. A customer of Britain’s largest and best known gay pub, The Coleherne in Earl’s Court, who was recently arrested for ‘wilful obstruction’ in Wharfedale Street (which runs directly behind the pub) was agreeably surprised when his case was thrown out of Great Marlborough Street Magistrates’ Court.

The magistrate said that there was no charge to answer and the member(s) of Chelsea Police Force responsible for the arrest was rebuked for wasting the courts time.

Anyone caring to check the details of this belated report can do so by getting in touch with the magistrate’s court mentioned above.

Continuing Saga (2)

On leaving a pub which received a fair amount of mention in your sixth edition, I became one of those that night to be vetted by the Chelsea police for no apparent reason. Their attitude was that of a master over scum, in which many who have been in this situation will agree.

I doubt very much if I would have been able to continue on my way that night had it not been for the fact that I am the son of a peer of this land and there may have been some repercussions if it had gone further than a warning. Not myself being used to such procedure, as in Sweden from where I have just returned from a five year stay, the barbaric attitude to the non-conformist in this supposedly enlightened country is beyond belief.

I feel it would be a great service to all of those who are not aware of these matters to date if you would publish a list of do’s and don’ts with the brief legal situation.

ED. Thanks, whoever’s son you are, it seems, you are vulnerable. Suggestions to be incorporated in the suggested list are welcome.

A Point of View

19721001-06In the last three issues [#5, p3] [#6, p7] [#7, p3] of Gay News you have probably read about Denis Lemon (me) and his brush with the law of the land. To go back over old history, I was arrested in Wharfedale Street, which runs parallel to the Old Brompton Road, and is directly behind the Coleherne public house. Although this pub needs no introduction to the majority of London gay men it might be useful to out-of-towners to know that the Coleherne is one of the busiest gay pubs in London.

On Saturday 12th August shortly after closing time I was taken into custody for wilfully obstructing the footway, and eventually, after a series of remands and one false start, I was found guilty of obstructing the highway in Wharfdale Street, holding up traffic. That’s how it must have seemed to Magistrate John Hooper anyway.

I was fined £5 which was duly paid by a close friend of the Gay News editorial collective. The costs of the case – my solicitor’s fees, court time, police expenses, etc. — were paid by the state. The amount the case cost the taxpayers of this country could be conservatively estimated at being no less than £100.

Now the case itself is an extremely minor one, it happens to numerous people every day in every city across Great Britain. But at the risk of boring you even further with this petty case (except to the taxpayer) I would like to make a few comments on the magistrate’s decision; why 1 was arrested and the implications the case raises.

Nine out of ten persons who plead not guilty in magistrates courts, and who are subsequently found guilty, still insist that they have had the wrong decision passed in judgement upon them. I am joining that majority. To me being in the middle of the road means just that to be where one of those white or yellow lines are that run down the centre of roads. When I was arrested, I was no further than two feet away from the curb. I was also standing between two parked cars, so unless motor vehicles now have wings attached to them I don’t see how I could have been obstructing anything except the mentality of PC David Ford (480).

But apparently ‘policemen cannot lie’ (or even be mistaken) so game, set and match went to bearded PC Ford. This happened despite the evidence offered by Wolfgang von Jurgen who must now be, in the opinion of Magistrate Hooper, either an incompetent idiot with extremely poor eyesight or a perjurer. That must go for me too, because I also said on oath, that I was at no time anywhere near the centre of the road in Wharfdale street.

But as I said before, most convicted criminals (like myself) claim to be innocent when proven guilty.

I would like though – now that the case is no longer sub judice – to offer some explanations on what I was exactly guilty of. I was guilty of taking photographs of uniformed Metropolitan Police Officers whilst executing their duty. Their duty, or specifically PC Ford’s duty was that evening to “move on the queers” as it was so aptly put by the Station Sergeant of Kensington Police Station. And it is obvious now, PC Ford doesn’t like having his picture taken. In fact, he gets hysterical about it. Neither do any of the other officers who have been snapped whilst doing their almost nightly “move on there or you’ll be nicked” game outside of the Coleherne. One uniformed inspector from Chelsea Police Station got so uptight that he sent his sergeant scuttling across the road into Kensington ‘territory’ to find out what my “game was”.

My ‘game’ was to take photographs of police activity outside the Coleherne, also to take shots of the surrounding area and of any obstructions that may cause the footway and highway to be blocked. After an increasing number of arrests outside that pub, and the visual evidence of a number of Gay News collective members, it was decided that we ought to take some action. So to be fair, to both the people who had complained to us and to the police, it was decided that as well as taking statements from witnesses of this alleged harrassment, it would be best to take a series of photographs spanning a period of several weeks, to use as photographic evidence. This increasing amount of evidence, as we have said before, will eventually be passed on to the correct authorities, which include the National Council for Civil Liberties, the Albany Trust, members of the House of Commons, and Scotland Yard (with copies to the Kensington and Chelsea Police stations).

We have stated on various occasions that any photographs included in this investigation will have the recognisable features of everyone except the police officers blacked out by us, as already happened to a photograph used in GN 6.

The police’s first action concerning this collection of evidence was to arrest me, a member of the press. I didn’t at that time possess a National Union of Journalists identification card, which I am now told by informed people would have stopped the incident, but at no time was I asked if I was a union member, and it was only after considerable argument that the police believed I was from the press.

Now, I am not saying that the whole of Chelsea police station are abusing their powers, I am not even saying that all the officers who are almost nightly sent down to the Coleherne are, but a number of police officers are abusing their powers, and as a result are helping to create a bad name for the whole of the Metropolitan Police force in London, as well as causing considerable ill-feeling amongst the pub’s customers, who in time might be pushed just a little too far by certain uniformed bullies. I suggest that, even before Gay New’s report is finished, the police themselves start an investigation into this unnecessary harassment and time-wasting. Aren’t they themselves always saying that as a result of a lack of manpower, a lot of serious crime is not being prevented, and that detection is hindered continually for the same reason?

I would add that I regard the whole affair (and the incident described in GN 6, where I was taken into custody for a few hours for suspected possession of a stolen camera) as yet another example of the police overstepping their authority, and as proof that homosexuals are still subject to the sort of ridicule and harassment that has been a common feature of gay life for far too long. Can one completely condemn the mindlessness of “queer-bashing skinheads” when they are set such a good example by those who should most certainly know better? I would think it only right to ask for the dismissal from the force of any police officers who are proven to have exceeded their powers in cases such as this.

Gay News is now trying to hopefully prevent such events happening again, and our report on the situation will be completed. Until that time we would appreciate it if any member of the public, be they a Coleherne customer or otherwise, would report any incident to us, no matter how trivial it may appear to them, that they might witness or experience in the vicinity of the pub after 10.30 pm on any evening.