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Does freedom of expression win?  British police say being offensive is not a crime

British police have been advised to focus on actual crimes rather than allegedly offensive people during “Twitter debates”.

In new guidelines released by the College of Policing, officers have been told to focus their time on reducing crime – as rapes, sexual assaults and violent crimes hit record highs – instead of monitoring ‘hate incidents’ non-criminal”, which although not real criminal offenses could still show up in a criminal background check performed by potential employers.

Over the past five years, some 120,000 non-criminal hate incidents have been recorded by police, The temperature reports. However, late last year, former police officer Harry Miller won a case against the practice, with appeal court judges agreeing that recording his non-crime violated his human rights.

Miller had previously been investigated for supposedly transphobic posts on Twitter, for example stating that trans women aren’t real women and joking, “I was assigned a mammal at birth. , but my orientation is fish. Don’t get the wrong kind”

Although police determined that no crime had been committed by Miller, it was still recorded as a “non-criminal hate incident” and police told Miller to “check” his “thinking”.

Following the court’s ruling in favor of Miller, Home Secretary Priti Patel acknowledged that “certain current practices have a dangerous impact on freedom of expression and potentially prevent people from expressing their views”, but no has yet to deliver on its promises to fix the problem.

New College of Policing guidelines advise officers not to simply consider a party’s perceived offense as justification for recording a ‘non-criminal hate incident’, crucially requiring that there be evidence of intent to be hostile before an incident can be recorded in the “least intrusive way possible”

Commenting on the updated guidance, College of Policing chief executive Andy Marsh said: “The public rightly expects police to focus on reducing crime and bringing criminals to justice. As we work to protect the most vulnerable in society, we also have a responsibility to protect freedom of expression. These updated guidelines put in place new safeguards to ensure that people can participate in legal debate without police interference.

“In all types of crime, it is important for the police to record incidents which could lead to or be evidence of crime – something that has been demanded by public inquiries such as the Macpherson Report into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence “, Marsh sequel – although a “non-criminal hate incident” is of course not a “type of crime”, by definition.

“Police regularly deal with complex incidents on social media. Our guidance is there to help officers respond to these incidents in accordance with the law and not get involved in debates on Twitter,” he added.

While the shift in focus is likely good news for free speech campaigners in the country, there still remains a swath of restrictions on speech in Britain, including being ‘grossly offensive’ or intentionally causing “annoyance, inconvenience or unnecessary anxiety to another” being crimes under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003.

Introduced under the left-leaning government of former left-leaning Prime Minister Tony Blair, the legislation has been used to arrest thousands of Britons for online posts.

While the Conservative Party has been in power for over a decade, no action has been taken to remove the draconian legislation, and indeed Prime Minister Boris Johnson has only sought to increase internet censorship with his Online Harms Bill.

Police forces have also contributed to the restrictive climate surrounding free speech in Britain, with some previously encouraging citizens to report their fellow human beings for ‘things like making offensive or insulting comments, online, in person or in writing’. .

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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