Newsagents believed that police officers who demanded the identity of people who bought special editions of the Charlie Hebdo magazine had been given orders to do so, though police chiefs say they never advised officers to take down names of buyers
The Mail Online reports: Two more police forces have been caught asking British newsagents which sold copies of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo for details of the customers who bought it.
Officers from Wales and Cheshire police have approached shopkeepers and demanded personal information on readers of the magazine, according to reports.
It comes after police in Wiltshire caused outrage by demanding similar details be handed over in the wake of the Paris attacks.
It appears that The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) was handed a list of Charlie Hebdo’s UK stockists by John Menzies, one of the the magazine’s UK distributors.
ACPO then alerted forces who had shops selling Charlie Hebdo in their area, saying that officers should be aware that the magazine was on sale.
According to an ACPO spokesman, the alert suggested that police may wish to visit the shops involved, but only if there were signs of rising tensions.
The ACPO advice did not recommend visiting each shop, and did not mention taking down the details of customers who had bought the publication, according to the spokesman.
It would appear that the three forces concerned either misunderstood the advice, or acted on their own impulse when they decided to ask for information on customers.
John Menzies initially denied leaking information to the police, but since ACPO issued a statement to the contrary, they have refused to comment.
Smiths News, another Charlie Hebdo distributor, has also refused to comment. The move has been branded ‘entirely unacceptable’ by privacy campaigners.
An ACPO spokesman said: ‘John Menzies, as the distributor for Charlie Hebdo within the UK, provided the police service, through the National Counter-Terrorism Policing HQ, with a list of outlets which were stocking the edition of Charlie Hebdo released following the Paris atrocities.
‘This was done so that local officers could be aware of any potential tensions on their beat arising from the sales of the magazine, given the situation following the killings.
‘At no point was any guidance given from a national level to forces asking them to act on the information passed over by John Menzies, and no national advice was given to forces that they should visit stockists or ask them for further information.
‘Some newsagents may have been visited by officers seeking to provide reassurance to business owners but decisions on doing so will have been made at a local level.
‘The police service’s duty in this matter is to protect the communities it serves and defuse tensions where they exist.’