Continuing Saga (1)

I see the continuing saga of police harassment outside the Coleherne remains unabated. Two weeks ago last Friday I saw a bloke chase after someone with a bottle, hitting him with it several times in the street. The police were nowhere to be seen of course, to break it up. I suppose they only break up fights between heterosexuals.

I think it should be mentioned by someone, though, that the Coleherne (and that dump across the street which I won’t dignify by mentioning it by name) is one of the sleaziest, crummiest gay pubs anywhere, in my opinion. Even without police harassment, an evening at the Coleherne can be a most depressing experience.

There must be many readers of Gay News who are completely new to the gay scene. I would suggest that they avoid “meat-rack” type pubs like these and, instead, go along to places like GLF and CHE. where they stand a better chance of meeting people on a more human level. Every Wednesday, for instance, GLF have a disco at the Bull and Gate near the Kentish Town tube station. These are free of charge and much more enjoyable than the Earls Court pubs.

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.

Happy Memories

19721001-04A young American visitor to London was arrested outside the Coleherne pub in Earls Court, for obstructing the footpath, and — even though he chose to be imprisoned rather than pay a fine — the police removed £7 from his wallet before setting him free.

Jim, the American, was a newcomer to London and after leaving the Coleherne he waited for his friend to come out when the police arrested him for obstructing the footpath.

He was held overnight before appearing at Great Marlborough Street Magistrates Court.

There the magistrate decided to give Jim the choice of paying a £7 fine or going to jail for 14 days. He was taken to a cell, because he chose jail.

Then a policeman came and gave him back his possessions and told him he was free. They had removed the £7 fine.

When Jim was in court he was refused permission to call witnesses. When he was picked up by the police he was called “an American fairy.”

Jim has now left the country.

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.

Policemen cannot lie

19720914-03One of the Gay News collective, Denis Lemon, was fined £5 when magistrate John Hooper decided to ignore his evidence at Great Marlborough Street Magistrate’s Court.

Denis was charged with the wilful obstruction of the footpath behind the Colherne pub in Earls Court — as reported in GN 5.

Magistrate Hooper started hearing the case on August 22 when police constable David Ford (480) of Chelsea Police said he’d warned Denis to move along four times. But when lunchtime came Mr Hooper decided to adjourn the case for three weeks.

PC Ford said he’d nicked Denis in Wharfdale Street where Denis had been standing in the middle of the road holding up traffic.

When the case started again on September 13, PC Ford had had his say, and Denis’ solicitor Mr Anthony Burton called Denis to give evidence.

He said: “I took photographs of police activity because of the number of allegations we have received of police harassment-outside the pub.

“I took a photograph of two policemen coming towards me and the flash-cube accidentally fell off my camera. I stooped to pick it up, without stopping, and they cautioned me to move on. I walked about 30 or 40 yards up the road to take pictures of the activity outside a coffee bar up the road to help us build up a dossier.

“I crossed the road and took more photographs and then I crossed back again to outside the Colherne and I was standing on the pub’s steps to take more photos, and the police warned me again.

“I walked around the comer in Colherne Road to take more pictures, and then I moved into Wharfdale Street and began to talk to about four people who were standing there, about the police activity.

“I was standing between two parked cars by the kerb. I was standing on the roadway, but there was no traffic for me to hold up.”

PC Ford said that Denis was standing in the middle of the road holding up the traffic. But, when it came to the case, he had very few questions to ask about the traffic.

Doug Pollard, another of the editorial collective, was with Denis when he came out of the Colherne. He said: “I had just come out of the pub when Mr Lemon came out. It was just before 11pm and he gave me a bag he was carrying so he could use his camera.

“He took a picture of two policemen and the flash-cube fell off his camera. As they were passing him the two policemen said something I did not hear to Mr Lemon, and he moved on immediately.”

Wolfgang G. von Jurgen, an actor, told the court: “I was in Wharfdale Road with a few other people and Mr Lemon was standing between two cars parked by the pavement.” Questioned by PC Ford, Wolfgang said:

“Mr Lemon was never standing in the middle of the road, and there was no traffic for him to obstruct.”

Summing up, Anthony Burton said:

“This is really a case where you have to decide whose version of the story you are going to accept.

“If there is to be an obstruction in law, there must be an obstruction in fact, and Mr Lemon may have obstructed the road but it was not wilful.

“Have we come to the day when serious inroads are to be made into the freedom of a press man doing his job? If there was an obstruction it was accidental and trivial.’

Magistrate Hooper, who wears a ring on his small finger left hand, said: “There was a large crowd outside this public house and I am satisfied that the defendant was cautioned to move on four times.”

Denis had pleaded not guilty to obstruction on Wharfdale Street. PC Ford’s mate was too sick to be in court to supply the magistrate with evidence to corroborate the police case, but John Hooper made his decision on one man’s evidence against the three defence witnesses.

Denis left the court in a turquoise zipper, leather jacket with matching slacks and dark blue shoes. He was accompanied by Mr J. D. Grinspoon.

In GN 8 Denis will be commenting on the decision and going further into the implications of the case.

This could happen to you

Four Prisoners – Fourteen Charges

19720901-03
Keele Gay Lib Soc established itself early this year, and membership grew rapidly at first. The group soon noticed that the police (CID) began to show some passion for having hurried half pints in the same pub they used prior to meetings. And, coincidentally, they were ostentatiously watching the house of some gays living in the Potteries, also taking youths down to the station for questioning in the absence of solicitors, parents or guardians. It is hard to establish whether threats were actually used on these occasions.

The Gay Lib Soc were informed that the police had been assembling a dossier on all known gays in the Potteries, for the last eight months.

After consultation with the NCCL (National Council for Civil Liberties) a formal complaint was sent to the police and statements forwarded to NCCL. Shortly after this the first person was arrested (on May 31) and remanded in custody. Within about two more weeks, three more people were arrested and also remanded in custody. It is possible that an otherwise growing membership melted away because of these arrests, as the group shrank in size from this time.

The remands (at Risley) continued until about July 17, when they were released on bail – police objections that they would plant bombs, intimidate witnesses, and be the subject of ravenous lynch mobs, suddenly disappeared from the prosecutor’s repertoire.

The four came up for committal on August 7, and are due to appear in the Crown Court in about 2-3 months time. Here are the details.

  1. One person aged about forty is charged with nine out of twenty-six possible charges: three charges of buggery with minors (section 12(i) of the 1956 Sexual Offences Act); five charges of attempted buggery contrary to Common Law; one charge of indecent assault (section 15 of the Sexual Offences Act).
  2. A second person aged about thirty is charged with buggery with a minor (section 12(i) of the 1956 Act).
  3. The third (about thirty-five) is charged with attempted buggery and indecent assault.
  4. The fourth, aged about nineteen, is charged with indecent assault and ‘causing wasteful employment of police time by making a phone call to the effect that there was a bomb in Longton Police Station’.

(The latter charge omitted the fact that the police had used this as an excuse to go up into the house the boys were living in, and illegally arrest them). This boy had been summarily tried on the latter charge, and no sentence was imposed, as his lawyer so abjectly grovelled and apologised for his ‘silly act , etc.

All the four charged have straight-straight solicitors – one solicitor gets most of his bread as the local pig-prosecutor!

What remains of the Gay Lib group has tried to support the accused while on remand, and get together the beginnings of an alternative defence – but it looks like they will get a straight defence in the end – psychiatrists and all.

At least four other arrests have been expected (but this may be police panic-mongering) and the present case seems in some ways like a repeat performance of the 1968 Potteries Purge, which resulted in the murder of one boy (‘suicide’ according to the coroner) whilst on remand, and the incarceration of three others after dubious police practices (see Sunday Times 17/3/68 – ‘The Disturbing Case of the Consenting Teenagers’, page 2)

These people are still remembered in the local gay community.

No Evidence

19720901-04BRIGHTON: John Campbell, a 34-year-old London chef, was kept in police custody for three weeks for cottaging before the prosecution decided to give up and let him go home.

Mr Campbell, of Southgate, London N14, was put into the police cells on July 17 while the police got ready charges against him alleging that he “importuned for immoral purposes” in a men’s lavatory.

In the end the prosecuting solicitor David Nissen said the police had no evidence to offer.

He said: “I would submit that the police acted quite properly. There has been no application for bail in the last three weeks.”

John’s solicitor, Mr Cyril Chapman, said he’d asked for bail for John, but this had been refused because the police said papers on the case were being sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Mr Chapman said he couldn’t see how the charge against John had been brought in the first place.

Mr Nissen said that John made a habit of going to Brighton to “meet other men”.

The magistrates awarded John £20 costs against the police. The chairman, Mr Harry Brogden, said the court had sympathy for John and the £20 would cover his costs.

The man he’d met in Brighton, Paul Mitchell, 20, of no fixed address was put on probation for two years for stealing clothes and a railway ticket from John.

Thump in the Dark

19720901-04HAMPSTEAD: An anonymous Gay News reader was given a black eye by plain clothes police while walking on the Heath.

The reader told Gay News: “I was walking on the Heath and I met these three large men in dark suits and blue shirts. I should have known they were police. One of them punched me in the face and 1 have a black eye.

“When I got to the roadway I saw there were two unmarked police cars parked. And from the noises behind me I could tell the plain clothes men were having a good time beating up gays.”

A spokesman for Scotland Yard said:

“There was an injury-only accident at Hampstead Heath, which required the usual police procedure.”

He denied that there were any plain clothes police in the area.

Funny, or How Very Queer

19720901-04Julie Frost, Gay News’s super salesman at The Boltons in Earl’s Court, had a rather strange story to tell after an evening of selling the paper recently.

On leaving his local tube station, Caledonian Road, a car drew up alongside of him and out popped three plain-clothes policemen. Julie was questioned about what he had been doing; his bag of unsold Gay News’s was searched, and a copy of the paper was scrutinised. After more questions and his, and the paper’s, name and address being taken he was allowed to finish his journey home.

A not too unusual occurrence, but wait. When Julie arrived home he noticed a dark blue unmarked police car, with its lights off, parked outside his home. Inside were two uniformed police officers. They were still there when Julie went to bed, and it was observed that they were still there much later that night.

We wonder what all that’s about?

Incidentally, Julie was the cover-model for Issue No. 5 of Gay News. This week Gay News, next week Vogue or Playboy?

Believe It or Not

19720901-07As you may have read in Gay News No. 4, and have possibly noticed in this edition of the paper, I (Denis Lemon) have been arrested, and remanded twice, on a charge of ‘wilful obstruction’. Of course, at present I can make no comment on the case as it is sub judice.

But what I can comment on is the fact that on the Sunday evening of 27th August (at approximately 10.45 p.m.) I was taken into custody for suspected possession of a stolen camera.

Earlier that evening I had been selling copies of Gay News in The Colherne public house in Old Brompton Road, London SW5. After ‘closing time’ I crossed to the opposite side of the road to the pub, where, after seeing a group of four uniformed police officers moving people on outside the pub in an unnecessarily rude manner, I took a photograph of them.

No sooner had the flash of my camera died than the police officers came bounding across the road, as if there was an armed robbery taking place behind me. Incidentally the policemen had left their own ‘manor’ because The Colherne side of the road is under the jurisdiction of Chelsea Police, whilst the opposite side is under the control of Kensington Police. Undeterred by this minor legality I was questioned about why I had taken the photograph, and had the camera snatched from my hands in a way which could hardly be described as polite. I explained that it was my job at present, to take pictures in the vicinity, and of any police action outside The Colherne, as there have been many allegations of unnecessary harassment received at the Gay News office. This apparently was of no interest to the four policemen who then immediately started questioning me about my camera and whether I could prove, there and then, that it was mine. I told them that I couldn’t, but possibly could, if they cared to come either to my home or to the paper’s office. They weren’t particularly interested in this and told me that I would have to go to the Police Station with them.

Having recently enjoyed the delights of a cell at Chelsea Police Station, I insisted that as they were taking me into custody in Kensington that they should take me to Kensington Station.

After some discussion they finally agreed to my request with which I was bundled into the police van they had arrived in and was driven off into the wilds of Kensington.

On arriving I was searched thoroughly (even the pockets of my jacket were well sniffed for God knows what). Then I was questioned about my activities and the remote chance that I might not have committed a felony to obtain the camera. To cut a long story short, after two hours I was taken to my home where I produced the box that came with the camera when it was bought, which finally convinced the police that it had come into my possession legally. But I was severely warned that it was highly dangerous to walk about in the streets with property that I couldn’t prove was mine.

“People have gone to prison before now”, was a parting comment they left me with.

What might interest you is some of the comments the police made whilst I was their guest: “It’s bad enough that there are places (The Colherne) like that”; “Piss Off is a term used by everybody nowadays so it is unlikely to cause offence to anybody”; “Soon all you homosexuals will be driven out of sight again”; “The public has had enough of hearing about your sort”; “Papers like yours and the underground press will soon be stopped”; “If you took a picture of me I’d knock your head off”; “There are 195,000 people in Kensington who would like to see homosexuality stopped”; “The crime rate is going down so we are not wasting our time there (The Colherne)”.

Most of these comments came from the Station Sergeant at Kensington Police Station, who on various occasions throughout my two hour stay with them, informed me that I was a “pervert”, “a queer”, and “an abnormality that had to be stamped out.” He also said that he did and always would refer to black people as “wogs”, and that they didn’t mind and it was “too bad if they did”.

But what did make the whole fiasco almost worth while was the one constable who came into the room whilst the others were busy elsewhere, who said, “I’ve got nothing against homosexuals, I just get sent there (The Colherne)”. Thanks to that one police officer I still retain a little respect for the police, who are in my opinion doing in Kensington and Chelsea, one of the best anti-public relations campaigns in the history of the police force in this country.