We need more Harry Millers

He fought the thoughtpolice, and he won.

Tom Slater

Tom Slater
Deputy Editor

Today is a good day for free speech in Britain. The High Court has ruled that it is unlawful for police officers to harass members of the public for expressing views on the internet that some people find offensive, but are otherwise entirely legal to express. That this even had to be clarified tells us something about how far we’ve fallen, and how sorely this ruling was needed.

The legal challenge was brought by Harry Miller, a Humberside docker and former police officer. Last year, police visited his workplace and later spoke with him because he had posted around 30 trans-sceptical tweets that someone took offence to. An officer, speaking with Miller over the phone, told him he had committed no crime, but that he nevertheless needed to ‘check’ Miller’s ‘thinking’.

In an absurd exchange that followed, the officer, who had apparently been on some transphobia-awareness course, singled out a limerick that Miller had retweeted as particularly hateful. Miller says he argued with the officer, telling him Nineteen Eighty-Four was supposed to be a dystopian novel, not a policing manual. The reference went over his head.

As it turned out, Miller’s tweets constituted a ‘non-crime hate incident’, which is as chilling a concept as it sounds. These are instances, logged by the police, that a self-described victim, or any other person, considers to be motivated by hostility or prejudice but are not actually unlawful. No evidence has to be provided for one to be recorded, and the police are explicitly told, by the College of Policing’s Hate Crime Operational Guidance, not to challenge any claims made.

Miller – backed by his Fair Cop campaign – took Humberside Police and the College of Policing to the High Court. The judge ruled that Humberside Police had acted unlawfully in their pursuit of Miller for nothing more than his political opinions, and he did so in strong terms: ‘In this country we have never had a Cheka, a Gestapo or a Stasi. We have never lived in an Orwellian society.’

The second part of the challenge, against the College of Policing’s guidelines, was rejected. Which is a great shame, given the section on non-crime hate incidents in that document is downright demented. Not only does it create a form of quasi-crime, the kind of which even those nodded-to police states never dreamt up, but those statistics have also completely distorted discussions around hate crime and racism, as Fraser Myers has noted on spiked.

But this is still an important victory, for free speech and for common sense. The police have become almost comically preoccupied with policing speech and social media recently, well beyond what they are required to do by law. Humberside Police are not some rogue example. Who could forget Glasgow Police telling people to avoid being unkind on Twitter, lest they risk getting a ‘visit from us this weekend’. Or South Gwent Police warning people on Facebook that mocking a drug dealer’s unfortunate haircut might be illegal. Meanwhile, knife crime is still a thing.

Miller has shown the importance of standing up to the new illiberalism that confronts us, and he’s done us all a great service. This should spur us on to go further, to start a debate about state censorship and to challenge all laws and police practices that criminalise speech, opinion and thought, either by design or in effect. From the teenager given an ankle tag for quoting a rap lyric on Instagram to the notorious Markus Meechan case to the war on drill music, it’s clear Britain has gone down a dark and illiberal path.

Britain’s complicated web of malicious-communications, public-order and incitement-to-hatred laws has made trials of alleged hate-speakers routine. Just today, Kate Scottow, a gender-critical feminist, was convicted under the Communications Act. According to reports, the judge said that her ‘deliberate and persistent use of male pronouns’ to refer to one Stephanie Hayden, a trans activist, had caused ‘needless anxiety’. Scottow’s supporters say this concerns a dozen or so tweets sent over seven months.

More than ever, we need to remake the case for free speech, to make clear that the state has no right to police what we say and think, and to establish that the best and only way to deal with contentious social issues or to tackle genuine bigotry is through more speech, not less. To do that, we need more Harry Millers. He fought the thoughtpolice, and he won.

Tom Slater is deputy editor at spiked. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Slater_

Picture by: Harry Miller.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Comments

Gerard Barry

17th February 2020 at 2:12 pm

Good for Harry Miller. Here in Germany, the situation is arguably worse than in the UK. Here, you can actually spend time in prison for “insulting” someone, believe it or not. Given that the Germans rarely question laws or authority, I can’t even see this changing anytime soon.

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15th February 2020 at 2:57 pm

Our right to free thought and speech will be greatly reinforced if the various divisions of public media actually recognise it and speak up for it. In the meantime, numerous organs are actively against the concept, the Guardian, BBC and Ch4 chief among them. Our once-great Universities now seem to feel that free opinion is a horrible sin to be silenced. I’m glad I’m old.

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a watson

15th February 2020 at 11:39 am

Is it to frighten the working class into silence? This appears to be the objective of the Labour Party – especially to silence the white working class and deny them a platform for expressing their views. If the local police can be recruited to enforce this aim all the better.

John Kemp

15th February 2020 at 10:32 am

“…genuine bigotry…”

Such a statement should always be prefixed with a context. i.e. Religious bigotry, racial bigotry, flower arranging bigotry, hairdressing bigotry etc.

It is a much over used and serially abused word, which is quite meaningless without context.

On subject though, whilst Harry scored one, so did the dementers….

Melissa Jackson

15th February 2020 at 11:38 am

I don’t know how true that really is. Yes, the court did not hammer the College Of Policing too. And that is a shame. However I think that was more a case of practicality than anything else.

The specific case by Miller was that his free speech was curtailed, but not that he was harmed. That makes a ruling against the police force a slam dunk, but probably not enough to make the police change.

It is a much much higher bar to overturn a piece of public policy on the grounds that it is illegal, and when there is no demonstrable harm (Miller owns his own business, he can’t even argue this has damaged his career) then the court will effectively decline to make a decision. “An idiot policeman wasted my time” isn’t the case you need.

The Count Dankula case is closer to what you’d want, but the Scottish legal system is both completely separate and completely bananas so no good there. The other cases are silly but still minor. The airport Twitter joke was terrorism, not hate speech. The girl with the lyrics was clearly an over-reaction, but it’s a case about whether a white person can ever say the n-word.

The College Of Police are going to get hammered, and soon. Either they will be forced to change by the courts, or by politics, but it’s coming. We didn’t get the ruling we want today, but we will. If following their guidance exactly is illegal, that guidance can’t stand for long.

Geoff Cox

15th February 2020 at 1:43 pm

By the way the “girl with the lyrics” was Chelsea Russell. Her case was overturned on appeal. However, how it was ever brought before a judge and how the imbecile found her guilty shows you how deep the problem goes.

Jurgen Befelshaber

15th February 2020 at 9:15 pm

In my day it was ACPO and we had ‘force policy’ fortunately this was before the outbreak of ‘diversity’ and the idiocy that has been spawned as a result. My point however is that unless it is enacted by Parliament after due scrutiny then it is of no merit and entirely unenforceable in law. ACPO/the College of Policing do not make law and neither to individual forces no matter how much they might like to think so. Miller was absolutely right to call them out and it is a shame the Judge did not go further and put the CoP in its rightful place …

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15th February 2020 at 9:20 am

Six times as many people are arrested for saying things on Twatter in this country then in the dictatorship of Russia.

Hugh Oxford

15th February 2020 at 8:21 am

Oh come on.

Do you think that when that political activist policeman phoned up Harry Miller, he didn’t know he was breaking the law? Do you think that when police forces collaborate with political organisations like Stonewall, they don’t know they’re breaking the law? Do you think that when police officers emblazon themselves with political symbols like the rainbow logo, and go on political marches like Pride marches, they don’t know they are breaking the law? Of course they do.

And they know that if they’re taken to court, they might run into a law abiding judge, and they might lose.

But so what? What’s it going to change? Nobody’s going to get sacked. No police officer lost out. Harry Miller had to risk his career and raise money to do this.

The process is the punishment. The cost to the citizen of winning is far greater than the cost to the political activists in the police force of losing.

Ven Oods

15th February 2020 at 9:01 am

“Do you think that when that political activist policeman phoned up Harry Miller, he didn’t know he was breaking the law?”
Yes, I do. Within any large organisation, there are bound to be dimmos, and when they’re led by the sort of senior officers about whom we’ve read in recent years, they probably think they’re acting in accordance with directives.
If I remember correctly, the police who removed the 80+year-old from the Labour Conference all those years ago did so under that auspices of a Terrorism Act. If that’s not dim, what is?

ZENOBIA PALMYRA

16th February 2020 at 2:56 pm

The ‘dimmos’ tend to be placed somewhere near the top in any given organisation. In governments, however, the dimmos are found at every level, with the dimmest of the dim at the very top!

John Lewis

15th February 2020 at 6:59 am

Too bad the more famous Harry is nowadays incapable of a minuscule fraction of this mans common sense and strength of character.

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K Tojo

14th February 2020 at 8:32 pm

Britain’s full time offence takers are already expressing “concern” at the outcome of this case. They are worried that bad people will see this as a green light to say upsetting things to and about “vulnerable” people. This may be only a temporary victory.

All that is needed is for a campaign group (Britain has no shortage of those – it’s a favourite national pastime) to demand a change in the law so that “words of hate” can be classed as actually harmful. Tear-jerking examples of people harmed by words will be paraded in the MSM. At a wave of the legislative wand a non-crime hate incident can become a criminal offence.

Brandy Cluster

14th February 2020 at 11:49 pm

It’s terrifying, all of it. Go and see Clint Eastwood’s new film about Richard Jewell and you’ll see the terrifying consequences of what happens when the media is in league with the law. (BTW, there’s been a backlash against the film because, you guessed it, the central character has guns in his home and is automatically guilty!!)

H McLean

14th February 2020 at 8:29 pm

This is all very well but when appraising the ‘new’ Johnson government, one which is in the enviable position of having the kind of majority that can liberate a prime minister to affect genuine social and economic change, the major question in my mind is this: what is Boris’ opinion on woke politics and its undermining of public institutions like the police, education, public broadcasting, law, etc? Is he red pilled or brave enough to wield the power his majority gives him?

The culture war has progressed unfettered for decades now and while previous Conservative Party governments have had various reason to be weak in the face of it, Boris has no such political limitations. So, is it in him to fight back? As illustrated by this case, repealing the the 2003 Communications Act would be the ideal place to start.

His bullish attitude towards Brexit allowed Boris to be elected with huge public support and I can’t help but think this bullishness applied to the sort of cultural fight-back that us filthy moderates have wanted for years would translate into similar massive public support. Is Boris the messiah, or is he just a naughty boy?

steve moxon

14th February 2020 at 8:54 pm

I met him some time ago and and he was mindlessly oikophobic to say the least. Then again, back then he was fairly kneejerk pro-mass immigration and surely has changed his tune somewhat.
He seems to be in the ‘useful idiot’ category re ‘identity politics’, and influenced by his fool girlfriend re climate change hooey, but he’s also a pragmatist. With his focus on us up t’north, whom he must realise — Dominic’s told him — are fiercely anti-‘woke’, then there’s some hope at least.

Ellen Whitaker

14th February 2020 at 10:14 pm

There are many who would like to see Johnson thrown in jail over his “letterbox” comment.

ZENOBIA PALMYRA

14th February 2020 at 11:27 pm

ELLEN WHITAKER — If you’re cool with a man who consistently uses offensive and vulgar language and who has been sacked twice for lying, and who has in the past wasted public money on absurd vanity projects being PM (and who is in fact controlled by an irritating unelected bald man from Durham) then that’s just fine!

steve moxon

14th February 2020 at 11:27 pm

And such will serve to make him anti-‘woke’, so the more there are of such daft charges the better.

Jerry Owen

15th February 2020 at 11:34 am

ZP
No thoughts on the EU empire then?

NEIL DATSON

14th February 2020 at 8:22 pm

Congratulations to Harry Miller. It is only a small victory of course. The very concept of ‘hate crime’ means neither more nor less than ‘thought crime’ and is an assault on civilised values. Our criminal law should be disinfected of such sloppy Blairite nonsense.

ZENOBIA PALMYRA

14th February 2020 at 7:03 pm

Stick it to the trannies!

Ellen Whitaker

14th February 2020 at 10:16 pm

The “trannies” have just stuck it to Labour Party women (men too).

ZENOBIA PALMYRA

14th February 2020 at 11:29 pm

There are different opinions within the Labour Party regarding legal gender self-identification. Some agree with it; others do not…

jmNZ

14th February 2020 at 6:45 pm

Long Live Harry Miller!
And also kudos to Julian Knowles for a just ruling.

Jim Lawrie

14th February 2020 at 10:49 pm

Agreed. And he allowed an appeal. The Sheriff Court in Scotland (= County Court in England) stamped on all possibility of an appeal for Mark Meehan in the Nazi pug case.

Brandy Cluster

14th February 2020 at 11:50 pm

That case is and was beyond appalling. The Left are atavistic; they revert to the authoritarian behaviour of their ancestors in the Communist countries.

steve moxon

14th February 2020 at 6:25 pm

It’s important to attack the ‘hate crime’ nonsense on several fronts.
One is that it is not remotely what it makes itself out to be: the data from the CPS shows that the recorded victims are males. Yes, the ‘sub-species’ that the ‘identity politics’ totalitarians hate.
Revieeing all of the research that has bearing on ‘identity politics’ reveals that contrary to claims re women, ethnicity and sexual orientation, those in receipt of negative attitude are simply males who are in some way ‘different’.
See my forthcoming paper on this.

Philip Humphrey

15th February 2020 at 8:22 am

While I cannot disagree with any of that, I’m not sure that playing identity politics back at the thought police is the right approach. You are right that working class males are overwhelmingly the victims of bogus accusations and speech censorship. But I think we need a more general approach, I think freedom of speech needs to be enshrined in law properly (not the useless Human Rights Act). And any limits to free speech (I’m thinking of direct incitement to violence) need to be carefully defined and limited so they cannot be abused by activists judges and would-be censors to shut people up.

steve moxon

16th February 2020 at 3:06 pm

It wouldn’t be “playing identity politics”: it would be accurately pointing to those actually in receipt of negative attitudes; a very different thing indeed. ‘Identity politics’ is hate-mongering towards the masses as Left backlash for us not buying their political philosophy. ‘Identity politics’ is nothing to do with sticking up for anyone. It’s sticking it to the hoi polloi.
The best way to attack ‘identity politics’ surely is to show how and why it is completely false.

Danny Rees

14th February 2020 at 6:16 pm

“This should spur us on to go further, to start a debate about state censorship and to challenge all laws and police practices that criminalise speech, opinion and thought, either by design or in effect.”

Spiked are well aware that there are some laws that police speech and for good reason. Incitement to violence for starters. The idea that there should be no such laws is ridiculous.

And no Miller did not break any laws but the fact above remains.

Jules Hardiman

14th February 2020 at 6:15 pm

The judge has granted him permission to take the ruling on the guidelines to a higher court not dismissed them.

Danny Rees

14th February 2020 at 6:08 pm

God the police in this country have made this guy famous and now we will never hear the end of it.

The police in this country are dumb.

Ven Oods

15th February 2020 at 9:06 am

Probably no dumber than the general public, statistically speaking, but with considerably more powers to abuse, as evidenced in this case.

Michael Lynch

14th February 2020 at 5:51 pm

Thank God for Harry and congratulations. These are the first indications that things are hopefully starting to turn.

ZENOBIA PALMYRA

14th February 2020 at 9:52 pm

‘These are the first indications that things are hopefully starting to turn.’ — turn to the benefit of certain sections of society and to the detriment of others. I fear you will limit freedom in your anti-woke zeal…

The Killgrave

15th February 2020 at 9:10 am

Islam is right about gays

Geoff Cox

14th February 2020 at 5:31 pm

Yes, well done Harry. But it is only a partial victory. Our spineless Judiciary has not rejected the whole College of Policing advice, just rapped the knuckles of Humberside Police for going over the top. The result of this is that nothing will change. The Police will carry on abusing their powers, they will carry on being unaccountable in 99.9% of cases and the College of Policing will continue their war on common sense.

I really advise everyone to watch Harry explain the background to this case. He is right on the money especially towards the end of this interview when he talks about the College of Policing. Don’t be put off by the two “jokers” doing the interview, just listen to Harry.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUuZMyqhUUk

eli Bastenbury

14th February 2020 at 6:16 pm

The only joker in these two is the profession, especially Kris who seems very on the ball in his own time.

Robert Feal-Martinez

14th February 2020 at 5:30 pm

I applaud this Judgement but it is contradictory. How can the Policy be OK when it’s the policy they followed against Harry which is not OK. How many thousands have been banned from Twitter because of there transgender ‘hate’ policy. I have for telling the truth. Twitter never explain how a tweet violates the rules. Even when you appeal and ask. Let’s hope Spike start a campaign to get all those banned to be re-instated based on this Judgement. Clearly those of us banned can’t. We too need Justice.

ZENOBIA PALMYRA

14th February 2020 at 8:30 pm

‘telling the truth’ — Do you accord tg people the right to exist and tell the truth as they see it? After all, if society is to be free we must allow opinions with which we disagree…

Ellen Whitaker

14th February 2020 at 10:27 pm

The truth as they see it seems to be that sex is not based on biology, but rather on self-identification based on some inner essence that expresses itself through traditional gender stereotypes. I don’t mind if they believe this, or say this, but I do mind when they organize to punish people who disagree with them through job loss or police harassment, and to make such disagreement through speech illegal. I mind these things very much.

David Morris

14th February 2020 at 10:47 pm

If someone physically male believes, based on same ineffable inner sense of femininity, that he is actually a woman he should be perfectly at liberty to say so. I should be equally free to express my opinion that his claim is incoherent nonsense.

ZENOBIA PALMYRA

14th February 2020 at 11:28 pm

ELLEN WHITAKER — I think you will find that there are a broad range of opinions on this issue among tg people, as there are among the wider public.

Jimbob McGinty

14th February 2020 at 11:29 pm

There is no right to exist, existence isnt an entitlement. It just is. Every living thing is here and thats it. Could end tomorrow. Cherish what you have.

Jimbob McGinty

14th February 2020 at 11:34 pm

Everyone has their own truth, and is at liberty to express it, be challenged, debate, etc. This does not extend to biological fact that if you’m born with b0ll0cks you’re male. End of. ‘misgendering’? ha, pointing out reality to someone who could do with coming back to this planey

Ian Bradbury

15th February 2020 at 7:56 am

If someone with a functioning penis and balls insists on imagining he is female then fine, we can’t stop him. But why should the rest of us take him any more seriously than we would a fat 50 year old claiming to be a world class 100 metre runner?

Jerry Owen

14th February 2020 at 5:21 pm

Well done Harry Miller.
But do we know if another judge could have come to the opposite decision? Or was this a one off lucky result?
Crimebodge on YouTube is an excellent source of endless clips of police stupidity and bullying.

Ven Oods

15th February 2020 at 9:02 am

“Or was this a one off lucky result?”
That’s my worry, too.

Jurgen Befelshaber

15th February 2020 at 9:31 pm

Even if it was a one off lucky result …. precedent has been set and Judges just love precedent.

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