Motorist told flag could be racist
2:45pm Friday 23rd May 2008 in By Charley Morgan
A TEENAGE motorist was told to remove an England flag from his car by a police officer because it could be offensive to immigrants.
Ben Smith, 18, was driving back home to Ingram Road in Melksham on Thursday evening after filling up with petrol, when the officer stopped him on a routine patrol.
He checked the tax disc and tyres on his Vauxhall Corsa but when he noticed the flag of St George on the parcel shelf he told Mr Smith to take it down.
Mr Smith, who works for G Plan Upholsterers on Hampton Park West, said: "He saw the flag and said it was racist towards immigrants and if I refused to take it down I would get a £30 fine.
"I laughed because I thought he was joking, but then I realised he was serious so I had to take it down straight away. I thought it was silly - it's my country and I want to show my support for my country."
Mr Smith had recently installed new speakers in the parcel shelf of his car and wanted to cover them up so they did not get stolen.
He used the flag and laid it out flat on the shelf so it was not obscuring his view out of the rear window.
But it was only there a couple of days before he was stopped by the officer at about 9.30pm close to Melksham Enterprise Park and made to take it down.
He said he is used to getting stopped by the police because he is a young male driver and is often mistaken for a boy racer'.
But he thought it was "a bit strange" to be asked to take down the England flag when the officer found nothing else wrong with his car.
PC Dave Cooper, of Chippenham Road Policing Unit, said he had never come across an officer asking someone to remove an England flag from their car because it could be racist.
He added: "It all depends on the context of a stop. If they are going past a lot of Polish people, for instance, and abusing them, then we possibly would ask them to take the flag down."
He said there would be no police log of Mr Smith having been stopped with details of what was said to him, as there was nothing wrong with his car.
He added the officer could have been based anywhere around the county and just made an independent stop.