Appeals court rules police directive on IS ‘non-crime’ hate incidents illegal in historic victory

An appeals court ruled that police directives on “non-criminal” hate incidents unlawfully interfered with the right to free speech in a historic victory for a former officer.

Humberside Police colleagues contacted Harry Miller, who describes himself as a ‘gender critic’, about alleged ‘anti-transgender’ tweets in January 2019.

An anonymous member of the public complained about Mr Miller’s tweets, which led to Force recording the complaint as a “hate incident”.

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

It is not known what was in the later deleted tweets, although he is known to have retweeted a poem that included a line: “The vagina doesn’t go anywhere.”

A hate incident is currently defined as “any non-criminal incident perceived by a victim or other person motivated by hostility or prejudice,” according to the Police College guidelines.

Critics of the policy have highlighted its impact on people’s freedom of expression, as well as the use of police resources to pursue such allegations.

Mr. Miller has challenged the actions of the Humberside Police and the direction of the Police College in the Supreme Court.

Last year, the court ruled that Humberside police’s actions were a “disproportionate interference” with Mr Miller’s right to free speech.

However, the former officer’s appeal to the Police College directive was dismissed on the grounds that it “serves legitimate purposes and is not disproportionate.”

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

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

The ex-officer successfully defied the police directive on

Ex-officer successfully defied police directive on ‘hate incidents’ in appeals court

One of the messages Mr. Miller was known to have retweeted was a poem that included the line:

One of the messages Mr. Miller was known to have retweeted was a poem that included the line: “Your vagina isn’t going anywhere.”

Example of one of the tweets Mr. Miller posted on his social media account

Example of one of the tweets Mr. Miller posted on his social media account

Speaking to Radio Talk, Mr. Miller said: “These 9CoP people are totally and utter idiots. They’ve all been through the Supreme Court trying to argue that there is such a thing as hate crime and crime and no hate. They need to shut down.”

The consequences are far-reaching. Even today, a non-criminal hate incident may appear on your record and the police can send it to your employer to prevent you from getting a job or promotion.

“This is a great day for British democracy and freedom. We kicked her out of the park.”

In March, Mr Miller’s lawyers told the Court of Appeals that the directives “violate the right to freedom of expression”.

However, the Police College’s lawyers argued that any interference with the right to freedom of expression “is proportionate to the legitimate aims pursued by the directives.”

The court heard that the directive was “completely replaced,” with updates that include “a strong warning of the disproportionate police response to reports of a non-crime hate incident,” including referring directly to the Supreme Court ruling.

In a statement following the ruling, the Secretary-General of the Federation for Freedom of Expression, Toby Young, praised the former officer’s courage and perseverance.

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

“Thanks to his courage and perseverance, we can all rest a little in our beds tonight, knowing the police aren’t about to knock on our doors because we made an inappropriate joke on Twitter. They should be guarding our streets, not our tweets.

After last year’s victory over Humberside police, a judge described the force’s actions as having “a significant chilling effect” on Mr Miller’s right to free speech.

Mr. Miller successfully defied guidance on reporting

Mr Miller has successfully defied guidance on reporting ‘hate incidents’ in the Court of Appeals

Announcing the court’s decision, Judge Julian Knowles said Miller’s tweets were “legal” and that the impact of police access to Miller’s workplace “due to his political views should not be underestimated.”

He added, “To do so is to devalue basic 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 off an individual’s record if no crime was proven to have been committed.

A source in the Ministry of Interior said: “So-called ‘non-criminal hate incidents’ have a chilling effect on freedom of expression and potentially prevent people from legally and legitimately expressing their opinions.

“If it turns out that people did nothing wrong, the police should not punish them.”

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

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

The Metropolitan Police registered more than 9,000 in the same time period.

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