Court of Appeal rules guidance on 'non-crime' hate incidents unlawful

Court of Appeal rules police guidance on ‘non-crime’ hate incidents IS unlawful in landmark victory for businessman who had ‘Gestapo’ police turn up at his work over ‘transphobic’ tweets

  • A former officer has won a landmark ruling over the recording of ‘hate incidents’ 
  • Harry Miller approached by Humberside Police over alleged ‘transphobic’ tweets
  • He challenged the force and College of Policing guidance of the offence
  • The Court of Appeal today ruled the guidance unlawfully interferes with the right to freedom of expression

The Court of Appeal has ruled that police guidance over ‘non-crime’ hate incidents unlawfully interferes with the right to freedom of expression in a landmark victory for a former officer. 

Harry Miller, who describes himself as ‘gender critical’, was approached by colleagues at Humberside Police over allegedly ‘transphobic’ tweets in January 2019. 

An anonymous member of the public complained about Mr Miller’s tweets, leading to the force recording the complaint as a ‘hate incident’. 

He claimed an officer told him that he had not committed a crime, but 30 messages he had tweeted or retweeted over the past year were being recorded by police.

It is not known what was in the tweets which were later deleted, though he is known to have retweeted a poem which included the line: ‘Your vagina goes nowhere’. 

A hate incident is currently defined as ‘any non-crime incident which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice’, according to College of Policing guidance.

Critics of the policy highlighted the impact on people’s freedom of speech, as well as the use of police resources in pursuing such allegations. 

Mr Miller challenged Humberside Police’s actions and the College of Policing guidance at the High Court. 

Last year, the court ruled that Humberside Police’s actions were a ‘disproportionate interference’ with Mr Miller’s right to freedom of expression.

However, the former officer’s challenge to the College of Police’s guidance was dismissed on the basis that it ‘serves legitimate purposes and is not disproportionate’. 

Today, though, the Court of Appeal ruled that the recording of “non-crime hate incidents” by the police is unlawful.

Former police officer Harry Miller speaks to the media outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London

The former officer succeeded in a challenge to police guidance over ‘hate incidents’ at the Court of Appeal

One of the messages which Mr Miller was known to have retweeted was a poem which included the line: ‘Your vagina goes nowhere’

An example of one of the tweets Mr Miller has posted on his social media account

Speaking to Talk Radio, Mr Miller said: ‘These people 9CoP] are complete and utter idiots. They went all through the High Court trying to argue that there’s such a thing as a non-crime, crime and non-hate, hate. They need shutting down.

‘The consequences are far reaching. Up until today, a non-crime hate incident could appear on your record and police could send it to your employer to prevent you from getting a job or a promotion.

‘This is a great day for British democracy and freedom. We have kicked it out the park.’ 

In March, Mr Miller’s lawyers told the Court of Appeal that the guidance ‘violates the right to freedom of expression’.

Lawyers for the College of Policing, though, argued any interference with the right to freedom of expression ‘is proportionate to the legitimate aims pursued by the guidance’.

The court heard guidance had been ‘fully replaced’, with updates including ‘a strong warning against police taking a disproportionate response to reports of a non-crime hate incident’, including directly referencing the High Court’s ruling.

In a statement following the ruling, Free Speech Union general secretary Toby Young praised the former officer’s courage and tenacity’.

He said: ‘The Free Speech Union is proud to have played a part in winning this landmark victory, but the lion’s share of the credit must go to Harry Miller. 

‘Thanks to his courage and tenacity, we can all rest a little easier in our beds tonight, knowing the police are not about to knock on our doors because we’ve made an inappropriate joke on Twitter. They should be policing our streets, not our tweets.’

Following last year’s victory over Humberside Police, a judge described the force’s actions as having a ‘substantial chilling effect’ on Mr Miller’s right to free speech.

Mr Miller was successful in a challenge to guidance over the reporting of ‘hate incidents’ at the Court of Appeal

Announcing the court’s decision, Mr Justice Julian Knowles said Mr Miller’s tweets were ‘lawful’ and that the effect of the police turning up at Mr Miller’s place of work ‘because of his political opinions must not be underestimated’.

He added: ‘To do so would be to undervalue a cardinal democratic freedom. In this country we have never had a Cheka, a Gestapo or a Stasi. We have never lived in an Orwellian society.’

In April, Home Secretary Priti Patel said allegations of hate incidents should be wiped from an individual’s record if no crime is found to have been committed. 

A Home Office source said: ‘These so-called “non-crime hate incidents” have a chilling effect on free speech and potentially stop people expressing views legally and legitimately. 

‘If people are found to have done nothing wrong the police shouldn’t punish them.’ 

In February last year, police said they had recorded almost 120,000 ‘non-crime hate incidents’ between 2014 and 2019.

South Wales police were found to have logged the highest number of ‘hate incidents’ with 13,856 cases. 

Metropolitan Police logged over 9,000 in the same time period. 

Source: Read Full Article