Index welcomes ruling that police reaction to tweets was “disproportionate interference”

Index welcomes the judgment in the case of Harry Miller – a former police officer who was investigated over tweets about gender.

In a judgment delivered at the High Court in London, Julian Knowles found that the police’s actions – which included visiting Miller’s place of work – were a “disproportionate interference” on his freedom of speech.

“The effect of the police turning up at (Miller’s) place of work because of his political opinions must not be underestimated,” Knowles said in concluding remarks. “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.”

Index has long expressed concerns about the way police are handling online speech.

“All too often speech that breaks no law is being investigated in a way that stifles people’s freedom to express themselves – while direct and credible threats of violence go unpunished,” said Index on Censorship chief executive Jodie Ginsberg.

Index on Censorship provided a witness statement in the Miller case and in particular noted the importance of being able to debate matters of public interest, such as the questions that arose from the government’s consultation on the Gender Recognition Act. Index argued that the growing number of cases in which police were contacting individuals about online speech that was not illegal – and sometimes asking for posts to be removed – was creating confusion among the wider population about what is and is not legal speech.