‘It takes ordinary people to stand up and say no’: Harry Miller on his landmark free speech case against the police

Mr Miller won a legal challenge against Humberside Police after they recorded a ‘non-crime hate incident’ against him

When Harry Miller took his oath to join the police in 1989, he – like all aspiring officers – pledged to operate to the best of his ability without fear or favour.

“What’s happened now is that the police have started operating in fear and with favour,” Mr Miller said. “We need a return to how it used to be.”

Mr Miller today won a landmark legal challenge against Humberside Police after they recorded a ‘non-crime hate incident’ against him for sharing an allegedly “transphobic” limerick on social media.

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Police forces record thousands of hate incidents each year even though they accept they are not crimes

Police forces are recording thousands of hate incidents even though they accept that they are not crimes.

More than 87,000 ‘non-crime hate incidents’ have been recorded by 27 forces in England and Wales over the past five years, when the national policing body introduced its Hate Crime Operational Guidelines.

The guidelines state that an incident – perceived to be motivated by hostility towards religion, race or transgender identity – must be recorded “irrespective of whether there is any evidence to identify the hate element” and can even show up on an individual’s DBS check, despite them not committing a crime.

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Must we all live in fear of a visit from the actual thought police?

A year or so ago, a friend insisted we move from Facebook Messenger to WhatsApp for our communications. The former was too easily hackable, she said, and she was worried that any off-colour comments – or indeed jokes – we might make about politics, life or individuals could end up being released to the world. I hate WhatsApp, but – suddenly feeling uneasy – I acquiesced.

At the time, I thought she was being paranoid. Now it has become abundantly clear that one cannot be too careful.

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Why are the police at war with free speech?

“To make good decisions, a society must have healthy discussions even if it is offensive to some people”

Perhaps it would simplify things if the 999 dialling service was amended. From now on it might say: “Press ‘1’ for ambulance, 2 for police, 3 for fire-service and 4 for thought-police.” Although given current priorities, perhaps the thought-police option should be offered first.

The thought is prompted by the case of Harry Miller, heard at the High Court this week. Mr Miller is a former police officer who was contacted by Humberside Police in January after a complaint that a number of tweets he had published were “transphobic”.

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‘Right to be offended’ does not exist, judge says as court hears police record hate incidents even if there is no evidence

The “right to be offended” does not exist, a judge has said, as the High Court hears that British police forces are recording hate incidents even if there is no evidence that they took place.

Mr Justice Knowles made the remark on the first day of a landmark legal challenge against guidelines issued to police forces across the country on how to record “non-crime hate incidents”.

The College of Policing, the professional body which delivers training for all officers in England and Wales, issued their Hate Crime Operational Guidance (HCOG) in 2014, which states that a comment reported as hateful by a victim must be recorded “irrespective of whether there is any evidence to identify the hate element”.

Mr Justice Knowles expressed surprise at the rule, asking the court: “That doesn’t make sense to me. How can it be a hate incident if there is no evidence of the hate element?”

He added: “We live in a pluralistic society where none of us have a right to be offended by something that they hear.

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The police must rethink its Orwellian obsession with ‘transphobia’

“Police officers cannot take it upon themselves to act as the custodians of proper opinion”

If there is an event that captures the lunacies of modern life, it is a hearing currently taking place in the High Court in London. The case concerns a complaint about allegedly “transphobic” remarks and the police response. Harry Miller, himself a former police officer, tweeted comments about gender that a member of the public reported to Humberside constabulary.

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Social media posts referred to police could show up on DBS background checks despite not being a crime

Social media posts referred to police but deemed as non-criminal could still show up on DBS background checks.

Forces across the country record ‘non-crime hate incidents’ on internal systems when the content is considered offensive by a victim “irrespective of whether there is any evidence to identify the hate element”.

The incident could then show up on an enhanced DBS check carried out by an employer on a prospective employee, regardless of the fact that the individual has not committed a crime.

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