Businessman's 'transphobic' tweet was LAWFUL, High Court rules

A former officer's 'transphobic' tweets were lawful and police breached his right to freedom of expression by behaving like 'the Stasi' when they turned up at his work to brand it a 'hate incident', a judge has ruled. 

Harry Miller, 54, said the police's actions had a 'substantial chilling effect' on his right to free speech.

The married father-of-four, from Lincolnshire, claims an officer told him that he had not committed a crime, but that 30 messages he had tweeted or retweeted over the past year were being recorded as a 'hate incident'.

The complaint was received by Scotland Yard from a 'victim'. Officers in London then contacted Humberside Police to interview Mr Miller after tracing him to his plant and machinery business. 

Announcing the court's decision, Mr Justice Julian Knowles said Mr Miller's tweets were 'lawful' and that the effect of the police turning up at Mr Miller's place of work 'because of his political opinions must not be underestimated'.

He continued: 'To do so would be to undervalue a cardinal democratic freedom. In this country we have never had a Cheka, a Gestapo or a Stasi. We have never lived in an Orwellian society.'

Former police officer Harry Miller outside the High Court today prior to the ruling by Justice Julian Knowles

Former police officer Harry Miller outside the High Court today prior to the ruling by Justice Julian Knowles

Mr Miller is the founder of campaign group Fair Cop, which challenges police interference in speech. The 54-year-old picture in the middle today holding a 'We love free speech' banner

Mr Miller is the founder of campaign group Fair Cop, which challenges police interference in speech. The 54-year-old picture in the middle today holding a 'We love free speech' banner 

He also said: 'The claimant's tweets were lawful and that there was not the slightest risk that he would commit a criminal offence by continuing to tweet.

'I find the combination of the police visiting the claimant's place of work, and their subsequent statements in relation to the possibility of prosecution, were a disproportionate interference with the claimant's right to freedom of expression because of their potential chilling effect.'

The College of Policing's guidance defines a hate incident as 'any non-crime incident which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender'.

In a ruling on Friday, the High Court in London found Humberside Police's actions were a 'disproportionate interference' with Mr Miller's right to freedom of expression.

But Mr Justice Julian Knowles rejected a wider challenge to the lawfulness of the College of Police guidance, ruling that it 'serves legitimate purposes and is not disproportionate'.

The judge said: 'The claimants' tweets were lawful and there was not the slightest risk that he would commit a criminal offence by continuing to tweet.

One of the messages which Mr Miller retweeted was a limerick which included the line, 'Your vagina goes nowhere'

One of the messages which Mr Miller retweeted was a limerick which included the line, 'Your vagina goes nowhere'

'I find the combination of the police visiting the claimant's place of work, and their subsequent statements in relation to the possibility of prosecution, were a disproportionate interference with the claimant's right to freedom of expression because of their potential chilling effect.'

Who are Fair Cop? Organisation set up by Harry Miller after police grilling over tweets

The organisation founded by Mr Miller has formed from concerns about police attempts to criminalise people for opinions that are not against the law.

On it's website the group says:  Some of us have been victims of police interaction following social media activity; some are police officers ashamed at police action. 

'All of us are furious with the 'Big Brother' overreach of various police forces and other authorities. 

'We are united in our aim of enforcing existing laws governing freedom of speech, conscience and assembly – rights that belong to us all in this country.'

The group adds that it works to work with the police in order to improve existing guidelines around speech. 

At a hearing in November, Mr Miller's barrister Ian Wise QC said his client was 'deeply concerned' about proposed reforms to the law on gender recognition and had used Twitter to 'engage in debate about transgender issues'.

He argued that Humberside Police, following the College of Policing's guidance, had sought to 'dissuade him

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