I found the policeman who arrested us for selling Never Mind The Bollocks

Black and white image of 'Never Mind The Bollocks' sign in-front of Virgin Records store
Image by Virgin Records
A close up of Richard Branson smiling, looking at the camera
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 4 August 2015

Many of you may be familiar with the story of when we were taken to court for displaying The Sex Pistols’ classic album Never Mind The Bollocks in our record store window. It escalated into one of the most unusual court cases in the history of the courts, with one of the most ingenious defences.

Black and white exterior of the Virgin Records store
Image from Virgin.com

Now, 38 years later, I have found the policeman who was responsible for taking us to court in the first place. Well, more accurately, he found me. I was delighted to receive a letter recently from Phil. Here is his story:

“As a relatively young uniformed police inspector with the Nottinghamshire Constabulary it was my team who were on duty when the Sex Pistols album Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols was posted in the window of your Virgin Record Store on Queen Street, Nottingham in 1977. Although all that was asked of the Store Manager was cooperation to remove the album sleeve, through inefficient negotiation all we achieved was 32 copies plastered across the 16’ x 8’ shop window. Being one who does not run from a fight, I trawled through Stones Justice Manual (three volumes and not the most exciting read) and found the Indecent Advertisement Act 1899 with power of arrest ‘found committing’. As they say, the rest is history.”

My Virgin Records story

The prosecution’s argument was that the word ‘bollocks’, as a derivative of ‘testicles’, was offensive. I called up a linguistics professor from Nottingham University and asked his advice. “What a load of rubbish,” he told me. “Bollocks has nothing to do with balls. It was a nickname given to priests in the 18th century.”In fact, The Sex Pistols album title could be translated as Never Mind the Priests, Here’s the Sex Pistols. The professor also happened to be a priest himself and revealed his dog collar in court. With John Mortimer QC, the best lawyer in the country, defending us, we were acquitted.

Phil, as the initiator of the action, was able to observe the whole court proceedings. “I sat there totally amazed at the ingenuity of the defence calling the Professor of Linguistics from Nottingham University,” he said. “I had no regrets at the loss of the case because to have had John Mortimer QC and Sid Vicious in the same room was totally surreal but utterly memorable… I enjoyed the chase and finished up with a personally signed Giles cartoon in which one of the kids is saying ‘but Auntie, the magistrates say it isn’t a rude word anymore’.

Black and white photo of the band The Sex Pistols
Image by Virgin Records

Phil retired with the rank of Detective Superintendent in 1993 and now spends lots of his time fundraising for the International Spinal Research Trust. I was more than happy to offer a donation to this worthy cause, and urge everyone to head over to their website to find out more. Meanwhile, The Sex Pistols can now be found taking pride of place saying bollocks to boring banking on our new Virgin Money credit cards.

Right, now I’m off to listen to Anarchy In The UK, safe in the knowledge that Phil isn’t on the beat ready to arrest me again!