The canary in the coal mine

The UK is at a dangerous junction when it comes to free speech

The loss of our freedom to think and express ourselves is much more than just a cold hard fact. It is a sinking feeling, a knot in the throat, as you see a person you care about unfairly maligned and persecuted by zealots. It is distrust around a dinner table, and the anxiety that you might be next. The friend who is forced to choose between their career and their conscience. The sister who is abused because others were too afraid to speak out. It is colleagues betraying each other to save their own skins when the mob comes knocking. It is the innocent person hung, drawn and quartered in the public square for uttering something utterly benign.

Read article: The canary in the coal mine | Emma Webb | The Critic Magazine

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Fair Cop’s case in court

It looks like the College of Policing has strayed far from its path; let’s hope the Court of Appeal can set it back in the right direction

What a difference a year makes. In February 2020 the courtroom was packed at the RCJ to hear Knowles J hand down his judgment in Miller v College of Policing.

Miller had been reported and recorded under the College of Policing’s Hate Crimes Operational Guidance (HCOG) in 2019 as a “hate incident” for some anodyne tweeting about issues of sex and gender. These tweets had been brought to the attention of “Mrs B” some hundreds of miles away, allegedly provoking great upset and offence. She complained and, following the guidance, Humberside felt compelled to visit Miller at his place of work to “check his thinking”. It was suggested that if he didn’t mend his tweeting ways, he might be arrested.

Read article: Fair Cop’s case in court | Sarah Phillimore | The Critic Magazine

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“Transphobic tweets” campaigner takes police harassment case to Court of Appeal

Harry Miller challenges College of Policing over its hate crime guidance following High Court victory against Humberside Police

18 February 2021 – Free speech campaigner Harry Miller is taking his battle against police harassment to the Court of Appeal, which will hear his case on 8th to 10th March.

In February 2020, Miller won a landmark ruling against Humberside Police in the High Court after the force recorded a “non-crime hate incident” (NCHI) against him for tweeting about transgender issues. In his judgement, Mr Justice Knowles said that Miller’s tweets were “not even in the foothills of harassment” and compared Humberside Police’s actions to the Cheka, Stasi and Gestapo.

Knowles however found in favour of the College of Policing, ruling that its Hate Crime Operational Guidance (HCOG) was lawful. Miller is now appealing this element of the judgement on the basis that HCOG is not compatible with existing legislation, including the Equality Act and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Miller’s High Court battle shone a light on the secretive world of “thought policing” in the UK, in particular the practice of recording NCHIs. Under HCOG, the police are required to record every accusation as a hate incident without the need for investigation. Following the High Court judgement, journalists discovered that over 120,000 NCHIs had been recorded in just five years, yet could not identify a single crime that this had prevented.

Last summer the College of Police reviewed and amended HCOG. Fair Cop, the organisation founded by Miller and others concerned at the chilling effect exerted by the police on free speech, detailed the deficiencies of the new Guidance in November.

“The College of Policing is making up the rules as it goes along, with no regard for — and indeed, in defiance of — the law of the land,” said Harry Miller. “My challenge to the College is simple: respect the law, follow the law, and do not criminalise people for expressing their opinions within the law.

“The existing Guidance should appal anyone who cares about free speech,” continued Miller. “By defining ‘hatred’ to include dislike, resentment and unfriendliness, it makes criminals of a huge swathe of the population who engage in robust, lawful debate. And the public agrees. Although this action has cost me a significant sum of money, I have been supported by thousands of donations to the tune of

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