Three cheers for Harry Miller who has been fighting for free speech in the London High Court this week against the increasingly censorious, oppressive, and petty-minded British police over a ‘transphobic’ ‘non-crime hate incident’.
Miller, himself a former policeman, was incensed to find himself under investigation by Humberside Police after an anonymous person had reported him for having shared 30 ‘transphobic’ tweets on Twitter, the worst of which — the police told him — was a limerick.
No crime had been committed, yet Humberside Police recorded it as a ‘hate incident’ — and phoned Miller to question him and ‘check’ his ‘thinking’.
In an interview with Breitbart News earlier this year, when he launched a crowdfund to support his case, Miller said:
“I told [the investigating officer] about George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. I said it was a dystopian novel, not a set of police guidelines.”
Humberside Police claim that police guidelines do give them the right to investigate cases like his. They fit into a category, recognised by the College of Policing, as ‘non-crime hate incidents’.
According to the Telegraph:
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”.
Miller’s view is that this makes a nonsense of policing and argues that the HCOG is unlawful because it infringes his right to freedom of expression.
“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,” he said.
Early indications are that the presiding judge, Mr Justice Knowles, is sympathetic to the principles being upheld by Miller’s suit.
On the first day of Miller’s legal challenge, Knowles expressed surprise at the College of Policing’s rule.
According to the Telegraph:
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.
“Freedom of expression laws are not there to protect statements such as ‘kittens are cute’ — but they are there to protect unpleasant things.
“Its utility lies in exposing people to things that they do not want to hear.”
This is key. One of the most commonly heard phrases in left-liberal circles — most especially in the safe space environment of snowflake college campuses — is “I believe in free speech but…”
Usually what follows is an explanation as to why some forms of speech — usually described with the weasel phrase ‘hate speech’ — are so toxic or offensive that no one should be exposed to them.
Knowles, however, clearly understands that free speech is a concept that necessarily embraces all speech — and most especially, contentious and potentially offensive speech — not just stuff that is so innocuous that everyone agrees with it.
What’s slightly worrying though, is that it had to take an enterprising and doughty ex-copper to have to argue this through the courts in the form of a costly judicial review.
How come the College of Policing introduced this ridiculous, fundamentally unBritish concept into its official guidelines in the first place?
Clearly it would be too much to expect any of the joyless Common Purpose-trained drones who devise these politically correct guidelines to have heard of John Milton, let alone read his 1644 pamphlet Areopagitica in which he argues in favour of speech and against censorship.
But they could always Google it. And maybe then ask themselves what it is that they know better than the poet and thinker who, at the height of the English Civil War, laid down the foundations of free speech in Britain (and by extension the U.S.) which have been admired throughout the world and which are one of the cornerstones of democracy.
Let’s hope that with the help of Harry Miller and Mr Justice Knowles, the ugly little busybodies responsible for this divisive, police-time-wasting, taxpayer-insulting nonsense are put properly in their place.
Harry Miller can also be heard talking in more detail about the background to the case here on the Delingpod podcast.