Cherwell can reveal that 150 copies of No Offence magazine have been confiscated by Thames Valley Police following a complaint by a student about their distribution outside Freshers’ Fair last week.
The magazine, edited by Exeter PPE student Jacob Williams and Oxford resident Lulie Tanett, grew out of the Facebook discussion group Open Oxford.
According to its Facebook page, it is “a new political magazine based in Oxford, devoted to controversy and free speech”. It has attracted controversy for articles including a defence of colonialism, a graphic description of abortion and an article entitled ‘Islam is not the religion of peace’.
OUSU has generated controversy of its own after banning the publication from Freshers’ Fair, and the magazine was instead distributed outside the Exam Schools, where Freshers’ Fair was taking place.
Police were alerted to the distribution of the magazine by Kiran Benipal, co-Chair of OUSU’s Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality (CRAE). Benipal told Cherwell, “I, and the other OUSU campaign chairs were aware that Jacob Williams was handing out No Offence outside Freshers’ Fair on Wednesday, but assumed because it was outside our event it was outside the realms of our control.
“It was then suggested to me by a law student that JW [Jacob Williams] might need a licence to disseminate any materials.
“On my shift at Freshers’ Fair, I was confronted by a fresher who also happened to be a survivor of sexual assault and had read No Offence having been handed it outside the Freshers’ Fair. Until this point, I had avoided reading it myself but felt this fresher’s welfare was in my remit since she had come to me. I read it, and understood instantly why she was in such a state – as a survivor of sexual violence myself, the assertion that survivors should go on “rape swaggers” was horrifying for me (a seasoned veteran of JW’s bullshit), but must have just been awful for someone in their very first week of Oxford.
“It was then that it occurred to me – even if he doesn’t need a licence to hand No Offence out, it was certainly offensive material and assumed it must be criminal to hand out hate speech against women, people of colour, etc.
“While on my shift at Freshers’ Fair, I called it into the police. I called in anonymously, so I am fully aware that it was not the police who made students aware of my reporting.
“I later learned that the erotica (actually written by a friend of mine) got everyone into a lot of trouble, but that’s not at all why I called it in.
“I wasn’t trying to curtail anyone’s freedom to write shitty erotica, but trying to preserve a survivor’s right to go through their first week of university without having their trauma mocked. Fuck anyone who has an opinion on that. I put the mental health of survivors over the right to be complete knobs. I’d do it again.”
Cherwell understands that police are currently investigating the incident, and that the legal concern is with the distribution of pornographic content rather than the controversial opinions expressed in the editorials. One featured article in the magazine was a graphic erotic story set in McDonald’s and entitled, ‘Finger me like one of your french fries’.
Thames Valley Police and Jacob Williams have been contacted for comment.