There is a crazy story evolving about a deaf man, by the name of Shaun Phuprate, who landed in jail for gesturing ‘fuck you’ at the police. But did he really?
Sunderland Echo: Signing row lands deaf man in court. “A DEAF man arrested after police mistook sign language for an obscene gesture has lost his court battle for compensation. Shaun Phuprate, of Town End Farm, was handcuffed and hauled before magistrates for making a two-finger salute at officers in Sunderland. The now 26-year-old insisted he was making the sign for “I am deaf” and had not been rude.” There is also a BSL video translation from SignPost
The ‘palm-back v-sign’ (source Morris, 1979; the finger)
The policemen believed they saw a ‘Palm-back v-sign’, which is a cockney variant of giving the finger. As such it constituted an insult and, together with other misconduct, enough to land Phuprate (and his brother) in jail for the night. Initially when the case came before court in 2002 the defense claimed Phuprate was merely signing ‘I am Deaf’, which the judge accepted.
Phuprate signing (BSL) ‘Iam deaf’ ? (source)
Afterwards, the brothers Phuprate launched a wrongful arrest claim, but recently jurors at Newcastle County Court found it was “more probable than not” officers believed Shaun had made an obscene hand gesture (and mouthed an insult and was drunk). Therefore the arrest was not wrongful. Nice to see how the policemen’s perception of insults is what matters in court. I am quite convinced that officers are human beings like most others, and I am also quite convinced that human beings can be oversensitive to insulting gestures. But I think we may well have another case of someone trying to pretend his insulting gesture was an innocent movement. The two gestures seem too far apart for a mix-up in the first place.
Strangely enough, in the initial hearing it was also stated that “[Phuprate] cannot possibly have understood any caution that was given or the reasons for his arrest”. Just because he was deaf he cannot understand anything? And elsewhere it says that Shaun could not have sworn since he was born deaf and ‘without speech’. As if oral education of the deaf never existed?
In this case I believe the cops can probably be trusted to have made the proper decisions about what they saw or chose to see. But unless you were there, we will never know what Phuprate really did. Ps. It appears that UK courts are more sensitive to people insulting cops than Dutch courts.