'Indecent' Nelson Mandela Jokes on Facebook Trigger Staffordshire Arrest

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By Dominic Gover | December 9, 2013 9:29 PM EST

'Offensive' jokes about Nelson Mandela were posted on Facebook, sparking a police complaint PIC: Reuters

A man who made a joke about Nelson Mandela was arrested and locked up for eight hours by police.

Neil Philips, from Staffordshire, landed in trouble for cracking tasteless gags online. They included 'My PC takes so long to shut down I've decided to call it Nelson Mandela' and also 'free Mandela - switch the power off.'

The sandwich shop owner was seized after a local Liberal Democrat councillor informed police. They seized his computer and his DNA was taken.

Philips, who used to be a member of the British National Party, said: "It was an awful experience. It was a couple of jokes, Bernard Manning type.

"There was no hatred. You can question the taste, but they're not hateful. I told the police they got plenty of 'likes'. What happened to freedom of speech? I think they over-reacted massively. Those jokes are 'out there', anyway.

"When they took my computer, I thought, 'what the hell are they looking for?' To be questioned would have been over the top, never mind arrested."

The world is mourning the death of Mandela, South Africa's first black president and an anti-apartheid icon, who died in Johnannesburg last week.

His arrest came in the context of a heated debate locally about the location for a public memorial to former mine workers. Councillor Tim Jones, who told police about Philips' jokes, claimed talks were being hijacked by the far-right.

Commenting on one of the crass jokes, Jones said: "Does the far right have an ounce of human decency?" 

A police spokesman said: "He was bailed pending further enquiries. When he answered bail on September 30, he was informed that there would be no further action based on CPS decision of there being insufficient evidence to support a prosecution."

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