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Free speech ‘is being curbed by police guides on hate incidents’

Fight: Harry by Sam Tobin Miller is taking both the College of Policing and Humberside Police to court PICTURE: PA

HOW police record ‘hate incidents’ against transgender people has a ‘real and substantial chilling effect’ on people’s freedom of speech, the High Court heard yesterday.

Former officer Harry Miller was contacted by Humberside Police after a member of the public complained he had posted ‘transphobic’ tweets.

He was told he hadn’t committed a crime but his post was being recorded as a ‘hate incident’, in line with guidance from the College of Policing.

Mr Miller is taking legal action against both Humberside Police and the College, the police service’s professional body in England and Wales. Opening his case in London yesterday, 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 Humberside Police, following the College’s guidance, had sought to ‘dissuade him from expressing himself on such issues in the future’, which he said was ‘contrary to his fundamental right to freedom of expression’.

Mr Wise told the court that Mr Miller tweeted ‘extensively’ about proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act for a number of years but that he had ‘never expressed hatred’ or ‘sought to incite such hatred in others’ towards the transgender community.

However, in written submissions, Jonathan Auburn, for the College, referred to a tweet in which Mr Miller said: ‘I was assigned mammal at birth, but my orientation is fish. Don’t mis-species me. F***ers.’

He added: ‘While the claimant now expressly disavows having any personal hostility or prejudice towards transgender people, his social media messages speak for themselves.’

The hearing is expected to end today.