We need more Harry Millers

He fought the thoughtpolice, and he won.

Today is a good day for free speech in Britain. The High Court has ruled that it is unlawful for police officers to harass members of the public for expressing views on the internet that some people find offensive, but are otherwise entirely legal to express. That this even had to be clarified tells us something about how far we’ve fallen, and how sorely this ruling was needed.

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Putting the thoughtpolice on trial

Previously unaware that Kafka and Orwell had written training manuals for police officers, Miller decided to bring a court case against the College of Policing, whose Hate Crime Operational Guidance (HCOG), issued in 2014, forms the basis of current practice. As Miller has argued at the High Court this week, ‘the idea that a law-abiding citizen can have their name recorded against a hate incident on a crime report when there was neither hate nor crime undermines principles of justice, free expression, democracy and common sense’.

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‘Nineteen Eighty-Four is now a policing manual’

In January, Harry Miller was investigated by the police for retweeting a limerick on Twitter. The police said the limerick – and 30 other tweets – constituted transphobic hate speech.

Miller is one of the thousands of ordinary people who have found themselves on the sharp end of the law in recent years simply for expressing their views. Social-media posts, usually intended as jokes or political arguments, are increasingly being criminalised if they convey the ‘wrong’ opinions about certain topics. Posts on trans issues are considered particularly toxic and are zealously investigated by police. Miller, alongside barristers, police officers and other victims of police overreach, have started the Fair Cop campaign to defend free speech.

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