Ukip free speech row: Police 'tell blogger to take down' legitimate facts taken from official Eurosceptic party policy

Michael Abberton fact-checked poster listing ’10 great reasons to vote Ukip’ – but faced a visit from officers after 'a certain political party' complained

Adam Withnall@adamwithnall
Tuesday 13 May 2014 11:17
This is the 'fact-checked' poster tweeted by the blogger Michael Abberton, which saw him receive a visit from Cambridgeshire Police
This is the 'fact-checked' poster tweeted by the blogger Michael Abberton, which saw him receive a visit from Cambridgeshire Police

A blogger who tweeted a series of “facts-checks” about Ukip policy has become the centre of a freedom of speech row after he was reportedly visited by police following a complaint from one of the party’s members.

Officers reportedly asked Green party member Michael Abberton to “take down” tweets in which he attempted to verify the truth behind a number of claims made in an anti-Ukip poster – despite police admitting that no offence had been committed.

Writing on his blog, Mr Abberton explained that he hadn’t even been the one to create the original list of 10 “great reasons to vote Ukip” – which included “making it legal for a man to rape or assault his wife” and “speeding up privatisation of the NHS”.

Yet the blogger said two Cambridge Police officers visited his home on Saturday afternoon to tell him that, while he had not committed any crimes and no police action would be taken, a complaint had been made “by a certain political party”.

Writing on his website, Axe of Reason, Mr Abberton said he was advised to delete the posts on Twitter.

He said: “They asked me to 'take it down' but I said I couldn't do that as it had already been retweeted and appropriated, copied, many times and I no longer had any control of it.

“I'd like to be absolutely clear - the police officers were extremely professional and polite and I couldn't fault their behaviour in any way.

“But it wasn't until after they left that I questioned why they had visited me in the first place.

“Why would a political party, so close to an election, seek to stop people finding out what their policies are or their past voting record? And is it not a matter for concern that a political party would seek to silence dissent and debate in such a manner?”

Mr Abberton later clarified on Twitter that one of the officers said “the party [Ukip] rather than an individual had made the complaint, but [the officer] might not have had all the facts”.

He also said police told him he shouldn’t tweet about their visit because it “might appear prejudicial in light of the upcoming election”, but added that they couldn’t stop him from doing so.

A spokesperson for Cambridgeshire Police confirmed today that the visit had occurred but said they had not told Mr Abberton to delete any tweets.

“We were called with a complaint about a message on social media at about 12.40pm on Friday.

“Inquiries were made as to whether any offences had been committed under the Representation of the People Act but none were revealed and no further action was taken,” the spokesperson said.

Nick Lowles from the campaign group Hope Not Hate, which has been embroiled in its own row with Nigel Farage and Ukip in recent weeks, said the incident was hypocritical coming from a party whose members “are actually a lot worse than the people who criticise their policies”.

Mr Lowles told The Independent: “It is a bit rich from a party that claims to be libertarian – to run to the police because they don’t like what someone has said.”

Julian Huppert, the Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge, who Mr Abberton contacted following the incident, told The Guardian he was awaiting a detailed response from the police but that he was pleased Ukip’s policies were coming under scrutiny.

“It seems astonishing for the police to get involved,” he said. “There was nothing abusive or threatening in the tweets so I do want to know why they acted, and I want to know why the police told Mr Abberton not to tweet about the visit.”

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