A man visited at work by police over alleged “transphobic” tweets has hailed a ‘watershed moment for liberty” after winning a High Court battle against a force.
Former police officer and businessman Harry Miller, 54, who founded the campaign group Fair Cop, said the police’s actions had a “substantial chilling effect” on his right to free speech.
Miller, from Lincolnshire, claims an officer who visited his workplace told him that he had not committed a crime, but that his tweeting was being recorded as a “hate incident”.
On Friday, the High Court in London ruled Humberside Police unlawfully interfered with his right to freedom of expression.
Mr Justice Julian Knowles said: “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 judge added 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.”
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Speaking outside the Royal Courts of Justice after the ruling, Miller said: “Mr Justice Knowles was very clear – we have never had a Gestapo or a Stasi in Great Britain.
“Well, the actions of Humberside Police came way too close for comfort. This is a watershed moment for liberty: the police were wrong to visit my workplace, wrong to ‘check my thinking’.”
Humberside Police said in a statement: “We accept the judge’s decision today and his findings in the judicial review.
“The mere recording of the incident by Humberside Police as a hate incident has been ruled as not unlawful and in accordance with the College of Policing guidance.
“Our actions in handling the incident were carried out in good faith, but we note the comments of the judge and we will take learning from this incident moving forward.”
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”.