A leading disability rights campaigner from Southend has launched a petition to make it illegal to use the name ‘WOY’ when talking about England football manager Roy Hodgson. According to Mary Blackhouse of the South Essex Discrimination Think Tank, making fun of his well-known speech impediment is a ‘hate crime,’ and she expects the problem to get worse over the course of the 2016 European Football Championships after England’s inevitable early exit. 

Ms Blackhouse said: ‘If there was a guy called Mervyn with learning difficulties and we used the name ‘Dur-vyn,’ this would technically be a hate crime. If we called a Jewish guy ‘JewJew McJewJew,’ this could possibly be a hate crime. How is it any different when calling a man ‘Woy’ just because he has a slight speech impediment? People look beyond his obvious resemblance to a barn owl and go straight for the imperfection that hurts him the most, and it has to stop! When The Sun or The Mirror uses this word on their back page, it sends a terrible message to school playgrounds all over the world, and children will grow up as bullies, violent attackers and possibly far, far worse.’

Westcliff mum Jo Zealouse, 26, told Southend News Network’s Chief Reporter how her 4-year-old son Marcus had been bullied at school over speech difficulties – she blames the culture of being able to use ‘Woy.’ She said: ‘Back in January of this year, Marcus made a slight mistake when trying to say ‘photosynthesis’ in an Early Years science lesson, and it has been the talk of break time ever since. None of the other kids will let him play anymore, his teacher won’t look me in the eye, and now we have started to get hate mail and death threats. Society’s attitude will only change when there is action at the very top, and if I hear Gary Lineker use the word ‘Woy’ just once this summer I will lose my sh*t big time.’