Police probe 'offensive' photo of Madonna in art gallery window

With an exhibition of celebrity photos to publicise, gallery owner David Koppel figured an eye-catching image in his window would drum up interest.

In the end he selected one of pop star Madonna posing on a mirrored cross while wearing a crown of thorns taken during her 2006 Confessions tour.

Unfortunately, he is now the subject of a police investigation after one passer-by complained it was offensive to Norfolk police.

Offending image: An employee lines up the infamous photo of Madonna wearing a crown of thorns at the St Giles Street Gallery in Norwich

Offending image: An employee lines up the infamous photo of Madonna wearing a crown of thorns at the St Giles Street Gallery in Norwich

Mr Koppel, 47, is awaiting his fate after refusing to remove the offending image following a phone call from one officer and a visit to his premises by two constables.

Details emerged on the same day that Norfolk police admitted they were not investigating two-fifths of reported crimes because there was little chance of solving them.

The admission triggered accusations that officers were wasting time on cases such as Mr Koppel's while effectively telling criminals there was little chance of them being caught as their crimes were not being investigated.

Mr Koppel, 45, who runs a gallery in Norwich near where millionaire banker Frank McGarahan was murdered last month, said: 'You'd have thought the police had better things to do, especially when there was a murder just 100 yards away from here.

'I can't believe this has offended somebody. It is a great photograph and has been published around the world.

'When Madonna did the Confessions Tour, she played in Rome and there was a huge controversy because the stadium was about two miles from the Vatican. But the concert didn't get stopped.'

Madonna on cross

Controversial: Madonna posed on a mirrored cross while wearing a crown of thorns during her Confessions tour in 2006

Mr Koppel put the £795 3ft by 2ft framed print up on Saturday at the St Giles Street Gallery to publicise the exhibition of 60 images by celebrity photographer Dave Hogan. Other shots include Madonna's kiss with Britney Spears during the MTV awards.

He was asked to move it 18 hours later during a phone call in which a female officer gave an 'exasperated sigh' when he refused to comply.

This was followed this morning by a visit from two uniformed constables, who said they would have to report the matter to their superiors when Mr Koppel again said he would not remove the print from the window.

Mr Koppel added: 'It looks like they are considering whether displaying this photograph is a hate crime.'

Norfolk Police yesterday admitted 41 per cent of reported crimes were not being investigated, up from 28 per cent three years ago.

Minor crimes are generally only being looked into if there is a realistic chance of them being solved, particularly when CCTV footage, forensic evidence is available.

Norfolk North Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb said the policy would make criminals 'begin to feel they can get away with it and the authority is seen as a soft touch'.

Norfolk police triggered fury earlier this year when it axed 29 of its 35 emergency response stations.

It claimed concentrating patrol cars in urban areas would cut crime in hotspots - but critics pointed out rural areas would have to wait longer for help in an emergency.

It was also recently accused of trying to improve crime figures by ruling that car vandalism should not automatically be recorded as criminal damage when there was no evidence it was deliberate.

Force spokesman Harry Mitchell said of the inquiry into Mr Koppel: 'We are currently in the process of establishing the facts surrounding the query.

'In such circumstances, we would always try and reach a solution which both upholds the principles of freedom of artistic expression and also prevents any offence being caused to any member of the public or faith group.'

Deputy chief constable Ian Learmouth defended the dwindling number of offences being investigated.

'We are making best use of our police resources by investigating only those crimes which have some hope or opportunity of being solved,' he said.