Landlady puts ‘golli***’ dolls back on display days after police raid

Landlady Benice Ryley says she is ‘grateful’ for home secretary’s intervention, adding: ‘She’s totally right’

Thomas Kingsley,Lizzie Dearden
Tuesday 11 April 2023 16:22 BST
CCTV shows police removing racist golliwog dolls

A pub landlady at the centre of a racism row has praised Suella Braverman for criticising police after they seized a collection of golli*** dolls.

Essex Police confiscated the items from the White Hart Inn, in Grays, as part of an ongoing hate crime investigation last week.

A spokesperson for the home secretary said she had made her views “very plain” to the force and believed they should “not be getting involved in this kind of nonsense”.

Benice Ryley, who runs the pub, told The Independent she was grateful for Ms Braverman’s intervention, adding: “She’s right, she’s totally right. These are from our past and it’s only the young lads complaining … it’s absolutely silly.”

Ms Ryley has put golli*** dolls in her remaining collection back on display but added a sign on the pub door saying: “We have golly dolls displayed inside on our shelves. If you feel offended. Please do not enter.”

“I’d love my dolls back though,” she said. “They’re nothing but dolls, childhood dolls.”

Ms Ryley said she and her husband, Chris, refused requests by the local council to remove the dolls from display in 2018 and were sent more by supporters after the story was reported.

“My husband and I are not racist at all,” she added. “We do Indian weddings, we have many cultures come into our pub and none of them would ever say we’re rude to them or anything like that, we welcome them all.

“To me we are all people and my husband feels the same. As for the gollies, they are dolls.”

Officers enter the pub to remove the dolls

The dolls are based on a Black fictional character that appeared in children’s books in the late 19th century.

They became popular in Britain in the 1970s but are now widely regarded as a racist caricature of Black people.

Essex Police said it had received an allegation of a hate crime on 24 February, when a member of the public reported being distressed after visiting The White Hart.

“We have regularly discussed the progression of this case with the Crown Prosecution Service and on 4 April, five officers visited a location off Argent Street, Grays, and seized several items in connection with that investigation,” a statement added.

“No one has been arrested or charged in connection with the investigation and our enquiries are ongoing.

“The force is proud of the work we do to prevent crime, tackle offenders and build trust and confidence in all our communities.”

The force said it had not been contacted directly by the home secretary in relation to the investigation, adding: “We maintain operational independence from the Home Office which ensures that every investigation is carried out without fear or favour.”

Chris and Benice Ryley were reported for the dolls in 2018

The Independent understands that staff in the home secretary’s private office had contacted police on her behalf over the case, because Ms Braverman believes that “police shouldn’t be seizing dolls” or “policing taste”.

The home secretary has repeatedly hit out at “woke policing” and “politically correct distractions”, despite a series of disturbing criminal cases and damning reports exposing misogynist, racist, predatory and corrupt officers.

Police leaders rejected Ms Braverman’s claim in a letter to chief constables that there was a “perception that the police have had to spend too much time on symbolic gestures, than actually fighting criminals”, and that diversity and inclusion initiatives had “taken precedence over common sense policing”.

Last month, the home secretary announced new statutory guidance on the police handling of hate incidents that do not amount to a crime.

“I have been deeply concerned about reports of the police wrongly getting involved in lawful debate in this country,” she said.

“We have been clear that in recording so-called non-crime hate incidents, officers must always have freedom of expression at the forefront of their minds.”

The decision to display the dolls in the pub has been condemned, as has Ms Braveman’s response.

20 dolls were seized in the Essex pub

“Suella Braverman should be prosecuted for using her position as Home Secretary to normalise racism,” Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu said on Twitter. “Golli***s are racist caricatures of Black people and display in a pub is a slap in face. I’ve been called a golli***. It’s not only offensive, it’s objectively racist.”

Good Morning Britain presenter Adil Ray agreed that the dolls were offensive.

“I was called golli*** at school,” he posted. “Just hearing the word frightens me. I can’t think of any good reason why someone on balance might think it’s ok to display them in a pub.”

The African, Caribbean and Asian Lawyers For Justice campaign group tweeted: “The fact that golli*** dolls are still being sold and displayed today shows that we still have a long way to go regarding racial equality.

“By perpetuating this harmful relic of the past, we are effectively normalising racism and perpetuating offensive and harmful stereotypes. While displaying golli*** dolls at the White Hart Inn in Grays is offensive, it is not a crime. However, we can choose not to support the establishment and hope they remove them.”

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