I shit you not. The man in the picture is David Pratt, an American who moved to England and is finding life rather less free on the other side of the pond, where he’s been hoping to apply for citizenship.

He bought the T-shirt in Venice, California, where such shirts are common and wouldn’t get a second look along the boardwalk at the beach or anywhere else. It says: “Don’t piss me off! I’m running out of places to hide the bodies.” A BBC News story reports that “Peterborough City Council said using insulting or offensive language was an offence, even if it appeared in print.”

So. Do Peterborough city authorities simply need to get out more? Or is this a trend? Perhaps this vile American humour simply doesn’t translate well? Let’s take a look at the statement issued by Peterborough City Council:

“The incident is the subject of an official complaint to the council and is currently under investigation.”

They’re investigating a T-shirt? Hell’s bells, folks. If an actual complaint was received -and I’m not convinced that it was- it should be dealt with in the following manner: ‘I’m very sorry, Missus Crank, but we do not police the things that T-shirts say. What’s that? A threat, you say? No, it was merely a joke, madam. Humour, yes. That’s right, ma’am, humour. Comedy. Satire. Hilarity. Amusement. Yes I realise it must have been quite a fright to be told that you would be killed if you upset this gentleman, but I assure you, no actual peril was involved.’ In actual fact, the “complaint” was probably “received” from the over-fervent “street warden” who was bored enough to find fault with the shirt in the first place.

“However, using offensive, abusive, or insulting language is an offence under the Public Order Act, which also applies to such language appearing in print.”

They wouldn’t be drawn, it seems, on whether the language of the shirt fell into the category of offensive or abusive or insulting. Quite how a comedic statement directed at no-one in particular (or everyone in general) for the purpose of being funny could be construed as abusive or insulting is beyond me. So that leaves “offensive”. Interesting, isn’t it, that such an arbitrary concept is the basis of a law in Peterborough. Anybody who takes offence at anything anybody else does can therefore have that person targeted by city authorities? Or do the city authorities themselves decide what people should and should not be offended about? This is blatant bullshit; the result of pathetic nannying by local governments too big for their boots and too stupid to understand what it means to live in a free society.

“In what was an amicable conversation, the street warden advised the gentleman concerned that his T-shirt could cause offence and if he was to wear it again he could run the risk of being issued an £80 on-the-spot fine from the police.”

It “could cause offence”. So it isn’t even the case that it did cause offence; it’s merely the case that it “could”. Friends, I feel the familiar stiffening of the neck muscles, the pumping of blood, the pressure of gritted teeth that accompanies stories like this, and I refuse to get upset unless a microphone is in front of me, so I must leave it there. These people are up-tight assholes, pure and simple.

Remind me not to visit Peterborough.