Is it a crime to mock a criminal’s unfortunate hairstyle? Police in South Wales seem to think so.
Last week, Gwent Police posted on Facebook calling for any information on the whereabouts of 21-year-old Jermaine Taylor, a convicted drug dealer from Newport who had breached his license conditions.
They put up the obligatory mugshot, in which Taylor sports his one-of-a-kind do – completely bald on top, two vertical, wispy columns of hair in the back. Facebook users proceeded to rinse him for all he was worth, with thousands of jokes, memes and puns.
‘Who done his hair? Moses?’, said one user, nodding to Taylor’s Red Sea-style parting. ‘Barber: “What you after bro?” Jermaine: “You know Joleon Lescott?” Barber: “Say no more fam”’, said another. Another joked that ‘police are combing the area’.
But Gwent Police didn’t see the funny side. A day later they put out a statement underneath the original post, effectively warning users that mocking Taylor’s hairline could constitute a criminal offence:
‘Please remember that harassing, threatening and abusing people on social media can be against the law’, they thundered. ‘If you say something about someone which is grossly offensive or is of an indecent, obscene or menacing character, then you could be investigated by the police.’
It was a ludicrous – not to mention authoritarian – response. And if their aim was to stop the thread being hijacked by pisstakers, it backfired badly.
The police soon became the target of derision. At time of writing, the post has been shared over 15,000 times and attracted almost 90,000 comments from amused members of the public, either mocking Taylor for his trim or mocking the police for taking offence on his behalf.
We could dismiss this as a mad one-off. Not all constabularies are as po-faced: in 2015, West Midlands Police likened a burglary suspect to Sloth from The Goonies.