A High court judge in London , Justice Julian Knowles has likened the behaviour of Police in Humberside to the Gestapo for hounding a local Businessman over views he expressed on his Twitter account which offended a Transgender woman .
In January 2019 , Harry Miller , a businessman and former police officer from Lincolnshire was reported to Police by a Transgender woman (Mrs B) who came accross tweets posted by Mr Miller which were critical of transgender issues . Mrs B reported the tweets to Humberside Police as ‘transphobic’ . The messages were recorded by Humberside Police as a ‘non-crime hate incident’. Later , A Police officer (PC Gul) called to Mr Miller’s place of work to interrogate him about them . Mr Miller wasn't present and subsequently spoke to PC Gul over the phone where Mr Miller was warned he could face criminal prosecution if he continued expressing those views . In a witness statement to the Court Mr Miller described the phone call with PC Gul.. "I asked for, and received, confirmation that neither the verse, nor any of the other alleged 30 tweets, were criminal. I then asked PC Gul why he was wasting my time. PC Gul said ‘I need to check your thinking’ ".
Mr Miller subsequently took High Court Proceedings against Humberside Police claiming their actions interfered with his right under Article 10(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights to express himself freely . The Article provides that .. "Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers"
In his court ruling Justice Julian Knowles said the police's actions "had a chilling effect" on Mr Miller's right to freedom of expression and likened the police actions to that of the Gestapo ...
The effect of the police turning up at his place of work because of his political opinions must not be underestimated. 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. Warning the Claimant that in unspecified circumstances he might find himself being prosecuted for exercising his right to freedom of expression on Twitter had the capacity to impede and deter him from expressing himself on transgender issues. In other words, the police’s actions, taken as a whole, had a chilling effect on his right to freedom of expression. That is an interference for the purposes of Article 10(1). Overall, given the importance of not restricting legitimate political debate, I conclude that Mrs B’s upset did not justify the police’s actions towards Mr Miller including turning up at his workplace and then warning him about criminal prosecution, thereby interfering with his Article 10(1) rights
Throughout his judement , Justice Julian Knowles made reference to quotations of interest regarding freedom of expression including one from English philosopher John Stuart Mill who wrote ... "If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind" . Also referenced by the Judge was George Orwell's unpublished introduction to Animal Farm (1945) in which Orwell wrote ... "If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear" . Also referenced was Orwell's Novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four" in which a secret police hunt down and punish "thoughtcrime" in a superstate called Oceania .
Justice Knowles was also critical of Mrs B who reported Mr Miller to police ..
I hesitate to be overly critical of Mrs B, given she has not given evidence, but I consider it fair to say that her reaction to Mr Miller’s tweets was, at times, at the outer margins of rationality. For example, her suggestion that Mr Miller would have been anti Semitic eighty years ago had no proper basis and represents an extreme mindset on her behalf. Equally, her statement that if Mr Miller wins this case, transgender people will have to ‘kiss their rights goodbye’ was simply wrong. The Equality Act 2010 will remain in force. The evidence of Professor Stock shows that Mr Miller is far from alone in a debate which is complex and multi-faceted. Mrs B profoundly disagrees with his views, but such is the nature of free speech in a democracy. Professor Stock’s evidence demonstrates how quickly some involved in the transgender debate are prepared to accuse others with whom they disagree of showing hatred, or as being transphobic when they are not, but simply hold a different view. Mrs B’s evidence would tend to confirm Professor Stock’s evidence