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UK judge: Police probe of ‘transphobic’ tweets was unlawful

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A British court says police infringed a man’s right to free expression when they showed up at his workplace to quiz him over his Twitter posts about transgender people

LONDON —
A British court ruled Friday that police infringed a man’s right to free expression when they showed up at his workplace to quiz him over his Twitter posts about transgender people.

Humberside Police in northeast England investigated Harry Miller in January 2019 after receiving a complaint about allegedly “transphobic” tweets, including a limerick mocking the idea that transgender women are biologically women.

He wasn’t charged with a crime, but police told him they were recording his tweets as a “hate incident.”

Miller, a former police officer, took the police force to court, accusing officers of attempting to silence him. His lawyer said Miller wasn’t prejudiced against transgender people, but had used Twitter to “engage in debate about transgender issues.”

High Court judge Julian Knowles said Friday that Miller’s tweets “were lawful and there was not the slightest risk that he would commit a criminal offence by continuing to tweet.”

“I find the combination of the police visiting the claimant’s place of work, and their subsequent statements in relation to the possibility of prosecution, were a disproportionate interference with the claimant’s right to freedom of expression because of their potential chilling effect,” the judge said.

Outside court, Miller said the ruling was “a watershed moment for liberty.”

“Go forth and tweet without fear,” he said.

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