Facebook post leads to arrest and ‘racial hatred’ accusation
A FALKLAND Islands woman was arrested on Friday March 6 accused of ‘use of words or behaviour or display of written material to incite racial hatred’.
An issue of trespass is also under consideration by the Attorney General.
On Thursday evening taxi company owner Faith Felton published a Facebook post describing how she had been called to collect passengers from Stanley Airport who had arrived in the country in small aircraft.
Ms Felton said she was angered to discover on picking up the passengers that they were from Argentina. According to her post she said she told the passengers “What the f**k are our government thinking? If I had known that I wouldn’t have picked you up.”
She went on to show pictures of a Falklands flag being waved close to the aircraft. She wrote “just in case there is any geographical or political confusion as to where these aircraft currently are, I thought a little flag waving was in order…”
Ms Felton next posted that she had been arrested for the photographs she had taken and displayed. She said she was detained for three hours and put in a cell for 20 minutes. She wrote that in the past when Falkland Islanders had approached the police to arrest Argentine individuals waving Argentine flags they were told, “this can only happen if one of us hits the perp! Whereby we get arrested for assault and they can get the lesser charge of incitement! But if a Falkland Islander waves a flag in front of visiting Argentine aircraft…that is inciting racial hatred???”
The Royal Falkland Islands Police have denied this, saying police officers are trained to make judgements based on events not people, “without fear or favour.”
Ms Felton told Penguin News there had been no charges so far and she felt they were “scrabbling around to throw the book at me.”
She said she had to return to the Police Station on April 3 to answer bail and in the meantime, she was not allowed north of Surf Bay.
Ms Felton indicated her actions were politically motivated and she was pushing back against the aggressive actions of the government of Argentina.
Chief of Police Superintendent Jeff McMahon told Penguin News that the arrest had not been about flags “but the whole incident.” The Superintendent would not be drawn on the subject but presumably that meant entrance to the apron, Ms Felton’s interaction with the five men and the Facebook post that followed.
Asked about the perceived difference in the way Islanders and Argentines were treated, he said there was no difference, and that in the past eight Argentines had been arrested for an incident at the Argentine cemetery involving the waving of flags that had “deeply offended” a witness.
He said they were “all arrested, processed, filed to the AG’s office who decided not to prosecute but that is a matter for the Attorney General’s Office.”
Superintendent McMahon said in terms of arrests “it’s a matter of looking at each case on its merits.”
He said it was, “around the impact on people; so if there’s nobody about there’s no impact on people, but if there is a witness then we can start to move into the arena of looking at public order offences. He said: “I think it becomes easier as well to look at a person’s intent. There’s an issue around national flags versus flags being doctored that claim sovereignty over the Islands, because it is easier to imply there is intent on behalf of anybody that has got a flag that makes a claim…”
Referring to an incident at the Jetty Centre recently he said a person with an Argentine flag had been approached and they had put the flag away when asked. He said, however, if they had said something, or wouldn’t comply with police instructions, then they may have arrested, “each scenario entails different nuances and a police officer would make that judgement around whether he or she thinks there is reasonable suspicion to make an arrest under any of the relevant ordinances.”
The Superintendent said there were some quite useful ordinances, “there is one involving causing an annoyance to passersby which I don’t think we have replicated in UK law… and so there are some features of the ordinance that give us some leverage to deal with things appropriately.”
He also emphasised that anybody who landed on the Islands was protected by the constitution of the Islands and the freedoms that go with it.
He also spoke of the ‘fairly good balance of local and contractor police” but “what we try and do is get them [contractor police] to understand the legacy that is very much prevalent here and we arrange at regular intervals for our MLA Leona Roberts to talk them through her experiences during the war; which is quite emotive as you can imagine… it sets the context for them to understand more around the history of the Islands and try to understand why people have the views that they have.”