|By Tom Slater
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.
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