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Christian Concern supports challenge to hate crime rules as man takes policing body to court

Wed 20 Nov 2019
By Heather Preston

A landmark challenge to police guidance on "hate incidents" was heard by the High Court on Wednesday, after a man was placed under criminal investigation for comments he made on social media.

Harry Miller was contacted by Humberside Police following an anonymous phone call reporting a number of his posts on Twitter as 'offensive' and 'transphobic'.

The former police officer and Christian is seeking a judicial review of the College of Policing guidelines after the "non-crime hate incident" was listed on his permanent record.

The court heard he was told he had not committed a crime, but his post was being recorded as a "hate incident".

 

Mr Miller argues the guidelines undermine his human rights and that "simply being upset" by a person's comments should not be a basis for police interference.

Christian Concern has been supporting Miller in his case.

Legal Counsel Roger Kiska told Premier these hate incidents are reported without proof and can impact job prospects: "It's an incredibly subjective term which means whatever the so-called victim feels it means, so no real crime has to be shown and this shows up on your enhanced DBS check which can make you unemployable."

"Miller didn't say anything illegal or criminal... and this will stay on his record and will follow him around.

"This could happen to literally anyone," he added.

Kiska says the Legal Centre are calling for the non-crime listing to be removed from Miller's record: "If it is based merely based on the perception of someone feeling offense, it is such a disproportionate impact on the person being reported.

"It has no place in a democratic society."

Kiska says people's human right to "shock, offend and disturb" should not be at risk when it comes to contentious issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion "where offense can be caused".

"If you know a tweet or a Facebook post or even something you say in a bible study group could get anonymously reported and end up impacting future employment... you are going to self-censor," he added.

A College of Policing spokesman told Premier: "The College of Policing is aware of a legal challenge regarding its Hate Crime Operational Guidance and will be responding accordingly as part of the ongoing process.

"The guidance was developed after concerns were raised in The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report that the police were not properly recording incidents of race hate crime. A new approach for recording incidents was then expanded to include other areas.

"Hate incidents can cause extreme distress and be the precursor to more serious actions or crime. Not all incidents will escalate this way but it is only by recording concerns that police can assess their seriousness."

The hearing is expected to last for two days.

 

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