Judge: Police interfered with free speech over ‘transphobic’ tweets

Friday, February 14, 2020

A former police officer has emerged victorious after a High Court judge ruled that action taken over allegedly “transphobic” tweets had unlawfully interfered with his freedom of expression.

Harry Miller, 54, was investigated by Humberside Police for sharing a poem online that questioned whether transgender women were biological women.

He claims he was told by an officer that he had not committed a crime, but that his tweeting was being recorded as a “hate incident”.

But in a ruling today, the High Court in London found Humberside Police's actions were a “disproportionate interference” with Mr Miller’s right to freedom of expression.

Mr Justice Julian Knowles said: “The claimants’ tweets were lawful and there was not the slightest risk that he would commit a criminal offence by continuing to tweet.

“I find the combination of the police visiting the claimant's place of work, and their subsequent statements in relation to the possibility of prosecution, were a disproportionate interference with the claimant's right to freedom of expression because of their potential chilling effect.”

However, the judge rejected a wider challenge to the lawfulness of the College of Police guidance, ruling that it “serves legitimate purposes and is not disproportionate”.

Since the accusations against him, Mr Miller has founded free speech campaign group Fair Cop, which aims to challenge “the ‘Big Brother’ overreach of various police forces and other authorities”.

At a hearing in November, Mr Miller's barrister Ian Wise QC said his client had used Twitter to “engage in debate about transgender issues”.

He argued that guidance from the College of Policing had led Humberside Police to try and “dissuade him (Mr Miller) from expressing himself on such issues in the future”, which he said was “contrary to his fundamental right to freedom of expression”.

The judge said Mr Miller strongly denies being prejudiced against transgender people, and regards himself as taking part in the “ongoing debate” about proposed reform of the Gender Recognition Act.

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