I've had an email from Hamdy Shahein. Nothing new in that as we have been in touch from time to time over the past 14 years. Nothing new, either, in his tireless campaign to keep his East London store pornography-free, which is invariably the subject we discuss.
But what is new is WH Smith's apology and offer of compensation for the hundreds of unwanted
top-shelf box-outs that Hamdy has received over the past 17 years. And one can safely say 'received them' and not 'claimed to have received' because Hamdy has kept the evidence. He has about 1,800 titles in his possession that he believes to be offensive and that have no place in a family newsagency.
Over the years I have spoken to WH Smith on Hamdy's behalf. It seemed to me that it shouldn't be beyond the ability of such a big company to mark his file with some sort of 'do not send rude box-outs' warning. And the company usually gave assurances that it could do this. It did work for a while, but then it was soon back to the box-outs.
Now, after a meeting with WH Smith and Hamdy's MP Diane Abbott, the company has offered him £5,500 to cover the cost of the unwanted material he was charged for and an additional amount as a goodwill gesture, as well as £1,500 to cover his legal fees.
Hamdy is rejecting the offer as "derisory" and is legally pursuing what he sees as a breach of his human rights. "This is not about money," he says. "It is about a principle. I still want them to guarantee that they won't keep bombarding me with this material."
In July, Hamdy was named as the best neighbourhood newsagent in the Living London awards by readers of The Independent and listeners of radio station LBC.