“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 over £80,000. There is clearly enormous public interest in challenging the College of Policing and overturning its unlawful guidance.”

“The College sets operating guidance for every police in England and Wales, yet it is not a statutory foundation: it is a private company,” added Sarah Phillimore, barrister and member of the Fair Cop executive. “It therefore cannot be right that HCOG can be implemented and amended without official oversight, when this affects every citizen. And it is absurd that we need to fight in the courts and raise money from individual donations to expose the multiple failings in the College’s guidance.”

Phillimore and a teenage girl are bringing a further challenge to the guidance in applications made in January this year. This challenge argues that HCOG contravenes data protection law by recording sensitive data against her name that Phillimore says is inaccurate and was motivated by malice. The teenager meanwhile objects to her discussions at school potentially being reported to the police and recorded against her. Together they have so far raised nearly £46K in crowdfunding to meet their legal costs.

Phillimore and Miss B continue to raise funds for their court challenge:

Sarah Phillimore: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/the-police-recorded-me-as-hate/

Miss B: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/miss-b/

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For further information or to contact Fair Cop spokespeople, please contact us.


About Fair Cop

Fair Cop is a group of individuals who have come together over shared concerns about police attempts to criminalise people for expressing opinions in a way that does not contravene the law.

Fair Cop is committed to working with the College of Policing, police forces, police & crime commissioners and other relevant authorities to improve the existing guidelines, ensuring they recognise citizens’ freedom of expression while continuing to provide robust protection against real crimes that are truly motivated by hatred.