DPP asked to act against anti-Semitic publisher

THE Director of Public Prosecutions is being asked to consider legal action against the widow of a former Tory activist and senior MI6 official, who is sending anti-Semitic material to eminent Jews.

Barbara Mills QC is studying a dossier from MPs concerned that Geryke Young - the widow of George Kennedy Young, former deputy head of the secret intelligence service - is distributing unsolicited 'offensive muck'.

Although her publishing company, Ad Hoc Publications, uses only a west London box number, the Independent had found she operates from her home on the edges of Holland Park, an affluent area of London.

The move comes amid concern at the recent growth in the circulation of racist and anti-Semitic hate-mail. Police have launched an investigation into crude Chanucah (festival of lights) cards widely distributed in England, but also sent as far away as South Africa, where the Nobel prize-winning novelist Nadine Gordimer was among those targeted. In a letter to the Independent, she said she found the card and accompanying literature 'scurrilous and disgusting', and was shocked it had come from London. While Mrs Young is not associated with the cards, she has sent her work to some of the same recipients.

There is also concern that the law - which has to balance free speech against racial hatred - fails to tackle the problem. It has to be shown that the words are so 'threatening, abusive or insulting' that they are likely to incite hatred. Home Office figures show that in 1991 there were 67 prosecutions under the Public Order Act but only four convictions. Prosecuting authorities are aware of the dangers of giving racist beliefs publicity in a trial, and the 'endorsement' risk of an acquittal.

Prosecutions are further limited by the requirement of the Attorney General's prior approval, which excludes private prosecutions and restricts the powers of the police and the Crown Prosecution Service.

Last month, Mrs Mills decided against a prosecution over one of Mrs Young's pamphlets, East Versus West, sent to her by the Labour MP Mike Gapes. While she agreed some of the passages 'appeared offensive', she concluded the contents were not threatening, abusive or insulting amounting to an incitement to public disorder.

But furnished with further tracts, she has now been asked to reconsider her decision. Geoffrey Bindman, the civil rights lawyer who has written widely about the law governing race-hate material, said: 'If distributed widely and taken up as a crusade, then I would be in favour of prosecuting. If it is sent only to Jews, then it is hardly likely to incite.'

However, he added that Mrs Young's work might amount to an offence under the Malicious Communications Act 1988, which prohibits unsolicited grossly offensive material that causes distress.

Greville Janner, one of the MPs who has protested over her work, said: 'Either the law is strong enough and it should be used to stop this kind of thing, or the law is singularly failing and it should be strengthened.'

Mike Whine, spokesman for the Jewish Board of Deputies, which has received many complaints said: 'Geryke Young has a long and close involvement with purveyors of anti-Semitic and racist material. Although she is not part of any organised grouping, she is clearly pursuing her own campaign against prominent members of the Jewish community.'