Comedienne Jo Brand is at the centre of a police investigation over quips she made on the comedy programme that temporarily replaced Jonathan Ross’s TV chat show. A senior producer on the Friday night Live At The Apollo show has been questioned by the Metropolitan Police about the incident.
Ironically, the six-show series only hit the airwaves as a ‘fill-in’ while Ross served his suspension after the fallout over the lewd messages he and Russell Brand left on the answering machine of Andrew Sachs.
The remarks by Jo Brand concerned the leaking of the British National Party’s membership list. Brand, 51 – who is a staunch Labour Party supporter – joked that as a result of the list becoming public knowledge on the internet, she now knew the addresses where to send the ‘poo’ through the post.
The details of almost 13,000 BNP members were leaked last November – including those of teachers, solicitors, church ministers and even a doctor and a serving policeman. Their names, addresses and phone numbers were published, exposing many to the risk of vilification, disciplinary action and dismissal from their jobs.
Brand’s routine was a hit with the live audience, who laughed and cheered at her remarks. However, the joke, which was broadcast on the late-night BBC1 show from Hammersmith Apollo on January 16, offended members of the BNP. The following day, Simon Darby, the BNP’s deputy leader, made an official complaint to Hammersmith police alleging that Brand’s comment had been an act of incitement to cause racial harassment.
A police spokesman last night confirmed: ‘We have received a complaint and officers will be reviewing the programme to see if any offences have occurred.’
But a senior police source said: ‘It is an absurd case and very unlikely to get to court. A lot of police time and money appears to have been wasted investigating what for all intents and purposes is just a TV show joke.’
The offending remarks by Brand have been posted online on YouTube. She is seen telling the audience: ‘Let’s start with some important political news. Did you hear this, right, that BNP members and supporters have had their names and addresses published on the internet, hurrah! Now we know who to send the poo to!’
Further complaints from the BNP followed, to the BBC and the police, and a formal review was launched two weeks ago – at an estimated cost of thousands of pounds to the taxpayer.
Officers spoke with the show’s producer about the programme’s content but did not arrest or formally caution him. Miss Brand is believed to have told officers, through her producer: ‘It was just a joke!’
A file was sent to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) last week to determine if there is enough evidence for a successful prosecution to be made against Miss Brand or the BBC. A decision will be made by the CPS in the next few days. But a police source said: ‘The chances of this going further are very remote. The idea that the BNP are claiming they are the victim of a race offence is mildly amusing, to say the least.’
Jo Brand’s agent, Vivienne Clore, said: ‘I have spoken to Jo and she thought all this had gone away. She is co-operating with any investigation.’
The Live At The Apollo series was brought in by the BBC as one of the programmes to replace Ross’s Friday night chat show.
Last night the BNP’s Simon Darby said: ‘The BNP is technically an ethnic group and, under Section 26 of the Race Relations Act, we would suggest there are grounds that an offence of incitement to commit racial harassment has been committed.’
A BBC spokesman said last night: ‘We do not comment on police matters. However, we believe the audience would have understood the satirical nature of the remarks.’