‘Police our streets, not our tweets’ says union as free speech wins in landmark ruling

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By news reporter Stephen Bailey.

The Court of Appeal has this week issued a landmark judgement that the recording of ‘non-crime hate incidents’ is an unlawful interference with freedom of expression.

The court explicitly ruled that the Police recording and storing such matters in police databases is likely to have a serious ‘chilling effect on public debate’.

‘Non-crime hate incidents’ are classified by the Police as occurring when a person is reported to them for incidences involving a perceived element of ‘hate’, but no actual crime under any current U.K. legislation has been broken.

This ruling was brought about after ex-Police officer Harry Miller was accused of making allegedly ‘transphobic’ comments on Twitter. A complaint was made against him and in January 2019, he was interviewed by Humberside Police, who, finding he hadn’t broken any laws recoded it as a ‘non-crime hate incident’.

This judgement comes in the wake of the High Court ruling last year that the Police Force’s actions in recoding the incident despite no law having being broken, were a ‘disproportionate interference’ with Mr Miller’s right to freedom of expression.

However, his challenge to the College of Police’s guidance (on recording ‘non-crime hate incidents’) was dismissed with the court finding it ‘serves legitimate purposes and is not disproportionate’.

This week’s judgement was lauded by Toby Young, Director General of ‘The Free Speech Union’, who stated:

‘The Free Speech Union is proud to have played a part in winning this landmark victory, but the lion’s share of the credit must go to Harry Miller. Thanks to his courage and tenacity, we can all rest a little easier in our beds tonight, knowing the police are not about to knock on our doors because we’ve made an inappropriate joke on Twitter. They should be policing our streets, not our tweets’.

This ruling comes amidst growing concerns among the U.K. public that genuine free speech is being severely eroded.

A leading free speech commentator said:

“For many liberals, the cultural-Marxists, liberty simply means licence for them to speak and act in whatever way they want, without hindrance of any kind from anybody else, acting as self-appointed censors monitoring and noting down every little detail for later reference their opponents words and actions, whilst at the same time running around in an obsessive manner preventing, stifling and often, aggressively shutting down genuine debate with a titanium-clad ring around any topic they want to prevent discussion on.

“They use various means to do this, including verbal and / or physical intimidation as well as oppressive censorship measures and laws such as those enacted in the wake of the Macpherson Report to shut down their opponents’ valid arguments and even simply prevent them from saying anything at all. This is not free speech and many feel that this needs to be addressed urgently.

“Speech is either free or it isn’t, there can’t be any legitimate qualification to its definition. If you can debate some topics freely and with vigour, but not others, or only debate them weakly or to a certain proscribed degree, then that’s not free speech but curated, controlled or directed speech.”

The Government has, since coming to power in 2019, introduced some measures in order to attempt to keep a balance in public debate, including a bill that sets out rules to uphold free speech in the U.K.’s universities.

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