Police have been accused of trying to find out the names of British people who bought the Charlie Hebdo magazine in the wake of the Paris terror attacks. The allegation came in a letter to the Guardian from a woman claiming to be a buyer in Wiltshire.
Anne Keat from Corsham wrote to the paper after it created a set of badges in support of Charlie Hebdo. She claimed the she wanted to “suggest a degree of caution” about supporting the magazine because two days after she bought her copy, police visited her local newsagents asking for the names of the four customers that did so.
She claimed she had asked for the magazine as a joke, and had not really expected one to be available. Keats said: “Tongue in cheek, I asked my helpful newsagents to obtain a copy of the edition of Charlie Hebdo issued after the dreadful massacre in Paris, if indeed a copy was ever available in north Wiltshire.
“To my surprise, a copy arrived last Wednesday week and although the standard of content in no way matches that of the Guardian I will cherish it. However, two days later a member of Her Majesty’s police service visited said newsagent, requesting the names of the four customers who had purchased Charlie Hebdo.”
She went on to warn the Guardian, “beware, your badges may attract police interest in your customers.” The badges themselves do not contain the Mohammed cartoon that was the excuse for the terror attack but instead are enamel pencils with “Je Suis Charlie” on one and the French flag on the other.
Wiltshire Police have now issued a statement admitting that the information in the letter was correct, but have apologised and said the information has been disposed of: “Following the terrorism incident in Paris, France on 7 January 2015, Wiltshire Police undertook an assessment of community tensions across the county.
“As part of this work, local sector policing teams were asked to be mindful of business premises, in particular newsagents who may be distributing the Charlie Hebdo magazine and to consider that these shops may be vulnerable.
“There was no specific threat nationally and nothing to suggest newsagents in particular would be vulnerable.
“A police officer visited a local shop and post office in Corsham to make an assessment of community tensions and, if appropriate, encourage the newsagent’s owner to be vigilant.
“During this conversation the officer requested information about subscribers to the Charlie Hebdo magazine.
“Wiltshire Police would like to apologise to the members of public who may be affected by this. Information relating to this specific incident has been permanently and securely disposed of.
“Wiltshire Police are confident that the police officer’s intention was purely around enhancing public safety and ensuring that the newsagent was advised appropriately. ”
News of the Police interest in readers of Charlie Hebdo came on the same day that thousands of Muslims marched on Downing Street warning British people not to insult Mohammed.