Golliwog dolls: Essex police chief has 'no regrets' over pub raid

Essex police chief whose force raided pub on suspicion of ‘hate crimes’ for having golliwog dolls behind bar has ‘no ‘regrets’ despite CPS later dropping the case

  • Police seized 20 golliwogs from White Hart Inn in Grays, Essex, in an April raid
  • Essex Police has defended its actions, despite the CPS dropping the case

A police chief said he has no regrets after his officers raided a pub following complaints it was displaying gollywog dolls behind the bar.

In April, six officers visited the White Hart Inn in Grays, Essex, which has since shut down and removed the dolls.

Last week the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced no further action would be taken after the landlords were investigated for a suspected hate crime.

However Chief Constable BJ Harrington said he would ‘make no apologies’ for the investigation.

Speaking to BBC Essex, he said: ‘Did we overreact? No. If someone makes an allegation of a crime, it’s our job to proportionally investigate that.

Essex Police Chief Constable BJ Harrington said he made ‘no apologies’ for the raid on the White Hart Inn, Grays, Essex, over its collection of Gollywogs

Landlords Chris (left) and Benice Ryley (right) retired and moved to their holiday home in Turkey. They were said to be ‘utterly gutted’ by the decision to close the pub

Mrs Ryley was quizzed by officers after police received an anonymous complaint about the golliwog display at The White Hart Inn in Grays, Essex

The White Hart Inn (pictured) in Grays, Essex was forced to close after Heineken and Carlsberg told the owners to stop serving their beer and a maintenance firm refused to work on site

The pub reportedly displayed its collection of dolls for the last 10 years

Police seized the dolls from the pub on April 4 while investigating an allegation of hate crime that had been reported on February 24


‘To gather the evidence and to make sure, if it meets the threshold, to put it to the Crown Prosecution Service who then make an assessment. Firstly [it’s] about the evidence and about the public interest.

‘That’s what we did in this case. I make no apologies for doing that.’

The force said a member of the public reported on February 24 that the items displayed at Benice and Chris Ryley’s pub ’caused them alarm and distress’.

The police seized the dolls from behind the bar on April 4 and the Campaign for Real Ale removed the pub from its Good Beer Guide the following week.

Landlord Mrs Ryley said she had displayed the collection, donated by her late aunt and customers, for nearly 10 years.

The building was later vandalised on April 16 prompting a separate police investigation.

Mrs Ryley closed the pub on 1 May, citing a boycott by brewing companies and the maintenance firm Innserve.

Constable Harrington’s comments come five months after Suella Braverman slammed police for sending six officers to seize the dolls from pub – suggesting it was an over reaction.

Essex Police said it investigated under section 4A of the Public Order Act 1986 – causing intentional harassment, alarm or distress – and section 31 the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 – a racially or religiously aggravated public order offence.

The Ryleys were leaseholders of the pub and the building owner, Admiral Taverns, said in May it planned to reopen the venue under new management.

History of the golliwog doll: How the outdated children’s toy became a symbol of bitter controversy 

The issue of whether the dolls are racist or not often sparks fierce debate.

The golliwog was created by Florence Kate Upton in 1895 in her book ‘The Adventures of Two Dutch Dolls and a Golliwog’, where it was described as ‘a horrid sight, the blackest gnome’.

After the author created the golliwog, it became a favourite for collectors and was popular in the UK as the mascot of Robertson’s jam.

But by the 1980s, it was increasingly seen as an offensive racist caricature of black people.

Some people hark back to fond childhood memories of the dolls, whereas others argue golliwogs are a racist icon of a bygone age.

Marmalade firm Robertson’s removed its iconic golliwog logo from its preserve jars in 2002 following complaints from campaigners.

In a YouGov poll last year 53 per cent of respondents said they thought selling or displaying golliwogs was ‘acceptable’ compared to 27 per cent who did not.

Asked if it was racist to sell or display a golliwog doll, 63 per cent of respondents said it was not, while 17 per cent did.

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