The police should not secretly record us as 'hateful'.
The police should not secretly record us as 'hateful'.
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Latest: Feb. 3, 2022
Excellent news - Wiltshire police concede and agree to delete
I am really pleased to say that on January 31st, Wiltshire Police agreed not to contest my action in judicial review and to delete the recording made against me in December 2019. Even better, the nex…Read more
Who am I?
My name is Sarah Phillimore. I am a barrister working in child protection law and have been discussing issues about sex and gender since 2018. I am particularly concerned about the risk of harm to children who are encouraged to 'transition' at an early age. I think this is an important and necessary discussion and we all ought to be free to have it.
I try always to be polite. I do not think I have ever expressed 'hate' towards anyone or anything; I am disabled and I know how harmful abuse can be when its directed against a physical characteristic that you did not choose to have. I am sometimes sarcastic. Not everyone shares my sense of humour. But that should never be a matter for the police.
In June 2020 I noticed that an anonymous Twitter account was boasting that I now had a 'record for life' of 'my hate' as my tweets on Twitter were now recorded by the police as 'hate incidents' under what was then the 'Hate Crimes Operational Guidance'. According to this guidance, the police must record what anyone tells them about being a victim of 'hate' - you can even make a report on behalf of someone else that you think is victim! The police aren't allowed to question the motives or the rationality of the person reporting. 'Hate' is given a very wide definition, to include 'dislike' and 'unfriendliness'.
I contacted my local police force to see what was going on, and they sent me 12 pages of tweets they had recorded as a transphobic and religiously aggravated 'non-crime hate incident'.
I was never told about this and thus given no opportunity challenge it. I deny I have ever been 'hateful' about anyone or any religion. I am a humanist and express satire and sarcasm about religion. Similarly I am critical of transgender ideology. I do not believe a trans woman is a woman. You cannot change biology whatever you believe.
The tweets I posted contained nothing that any reasonable person could describe as 'hatred' - for example one is discussing that my dog likes to eat cheese!
Twitter have never asked me to delete any of them so presumably do not think I violated their terms of service forbidding hateful content.
The police have refused to delete the recording and refused to tell me who gets to see this information. It is recorded against my full name, my date of birth, my home address and my email address. They have agreed to record alongside it the fact that I strongly dispute it is fair - but that only makes me more worried that they never told me they had recorded it in the first place.
Call to action -
I need to raise money to take legal action to compel the police to delete this recording and hopefully challenge the lawfulness of the guidance itself.
The College of Policing recently issued new guidance about hate crimes and incidents on October 21st 2020 but it isn't an improvement - it retains the very wide definition of 'hate' and gives the police no discretion as to what they record.
I am not going to stop exercising my rights to speak about issues that interest me, or making sarcastic comments on line, so it's likely I will end up being reported again. For many people the possibility that they will end up with a police record is enough to silence them. It's vital that we are able to debate and even ridicule ideas that we disagree with. The pro-trans lobby and those with a religious faith should have the same right to disagree with and ridicule me. Freedom of speech is essential to a healthy and functioning democracy.
My ultimate aim is to see guidance to the police amended to allow police forces to consider recording of 'hate incidents' more critically and to an objective standard. This will not only protect our rights to free speech, but also allow the police to build up a more reliable and useful picture of the potential for 'escalation' in their area.
Although I am a barrister, my specialism is not in data protection or judicial review and I need the help of an expert team to get this right. For this - I need your help.
What are we trying to achieve?
I think this recording of my personal and sensitive data, alongside the false assertion that I am 'posting hate', without telling me, is unreasonable, irrational and unlawful. It's an unjustified stain on my character and has a chilling impact on my right to freedom of speech.
I think it's necessary and right for the police to gather intelligence about people who pose a real risk of escalating into actual criminal behaviour. I want our police to have access to the information and tools they need to keep us all safe.
However, for that intelligence to be worth anything, it has to have some basis in reality. I am worried that that what the police are being told to do with regard to 'hate' crimes and incidents does not make any of us any safer - it is in fact wasting police time and puts many of us at risk of malicious reporting.
Over 100K 'hate incidents' have been recorded since the implementation of the Hate Crimes Guidance. How many people know they have been recorded - or only found out when this was disclosed to a potential employer? How many have been recorded on a false or exaggerated basis?
My case is similar to that of Harry Miller who challenged the guidance in November 2019. That challenge was rejected by the High Court but he was given leave to appeal. However, Harry's case is based on the 'chilling effect' on his and others' freedom of speech. My main objection is that my sensitive and personal data is being recorded for no lawful purpose, on a false basis, and with no reassurance about who will see it. I think it is completely unacceptable that the police keep a record about you on the basis that someone felt you disliked them or were unfriendly towards them. This is all the more sinister when you are not told that the record has been made.
What is the next step in the case? -
My legal team have written to the College of Policing, pointing out that their new guidance unlawfully breaches the Data Protection Act, GDPR `and my human rights. They have asked that the guidance is withdrawn within 14 days or else I will commence legal proceedings in the High Court.
How much we are raising and why? -
I will need to raise at least £20K to make an application for permission to apply for judicial review and if permission is granted, I will need at least £60K to cover the court hearing after that. I appreciate this is a huge amount of money and many of you have already been very generous in donations to similar legal actions. I would be very grateful if you can donate whatever you can, however small. It really does help.
If you can't afford to make a financial donation, please do share a link to this page. I think this is very serious and it has implications for all of us.
I do not think that this is how our police should behave. As Mr Justice Knowles said in Harry Miller's case - in this country we have never had a Stasi, the Cheka or the Gestapo.
Let's keep it that way.
All the money raised will go straight to my lawyers. If there is any money left over then I would like to divide it between any of the remaining legal challenges to gender ideology that are now underway.
Feb. 3, 2022
Excellent news - Wiltshire police concede and agree to delete
I am really pleased to say that on January 31st, Wiltshire Police agreed not to contest my action in judicial review and to delete the recording made against me in December 2019. Even better, the next day they agreed to carry out an 'expeditious' audit of ALL recordings made against me and apply the principles in Miller v College of Policing.
Given that the second and third set of recordings were even more absurd than the first then I anticipate they will be deleted. If not, I will take further action. This is really good news and while I am sorry it has taken so long, I am grateful that Wiltshire police are taking these necessary steps to restored public trust and confidence.
On a slightly less optimistic note, the College of Policing have asked for a further stay of my action until the end of May 2022 so that they may 'potentially' review the Hate Crimes Guidance. There is no 'potential' about it. The Court of Appeal has declared this Guidance unlawful and it must be reviewed. The Government has also proposed a new statutory Code of Conduct that will be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny, but as yet no timescales are known for this.
I am shocked to note this campaign has been running for 453 days but immensely grateful to the 1,428 people who pledged on average £27 pounds each to help make this happen. I know you are not the 'shadowy Far Right' - you are ordinary men and women who have made it clear, you have had enough of this dangerous, unprincipled nonsense.
Dec. 20, 2021
Best Christmas present ever - Court of Appeal rules HCG unlawful
I was delighted today - that after a long wait - the Court of Appeal finally delivered judgment on Harry Miller's appeal against the refusal to declare the Hate Crimes Guidance unlawful. The court allowed grounds 3 and 5 of his appeal and declared the guidance was an unlawful breach of his article 10 rights.
I have made brief comment on the judgment here https://sarahphillimore.substack.com/p/hate-crimes-guidance-ruled-unlawful?justPublished=true
I don't know yet what the implications for my case will be. The Court of Appeal did not deal with any of the arguments about data protection or article 8. It may be that we can therefore still proceed and there is a public interest in so doing. I have asked to meet with my legal team early next year and I will keep you posted.
Sept. 27, 2021
Application lodged against Wiltshire Police
And the PCC is an 'interested party'.
We will ask that this application is joined to the application against the College of Police and both will be stayed unless and until the outcome of Harry Miller's appeal is known. That was heard on 8th and 9th March 2021 and we are still waiting for the judgment of the Court of Appeal.
Also Miss B's application can't go forward until we know what has happened to Harry's. Her crowdfunder is here
It's now almost a year since I made my first application against the College of Policing and we continue to see the police offering overt political support to the ideology of gender identity https://twitter.com/transradiouk/status/1441828900661698560?s=20
But also some very welcome public statements by some of the newly elected PCCs - including the PCC for Wiltshire.
So there are very encouraging signs that the debate is opening up but while the Hate Crimes Guidance remains in force, we are all still at risk of being recorded, in secret on the subjective report of someone else, who will not be challenged.
Hopefully my next update will be to summarise the Court of Appeal judgment - if Harry wins then I assume my application will fall away. If he loses then hopefully me and Miss B will continue as our arguments are wider than simply article 10.
Thank you again for your continued support. It would not be possible to do this without you.
July 8, 2021
We are still waiting for the Court of Appeal judgment in Harry Miller's case - just over four months now. This is very frustrating. My application is stayed until that outcome is known.
However, I am trying to use the time usefully and am pursuing my complaint against Wiltshire police via the review process of the Police and Crime Commissioner.
I am also trying to get hold of a copy of the report of Paul Giannasi (National Hate Crime Lead) that Wiltshire Professional Standards relied on to dismiss that complaint. I made the request on May 17th so time has passed to either receive the report or the reasons for refusal.
If I do not hear further by July 16th I will refer the police to the Information Commissioner.
It's a slow and cumbersome process, but we keep on keeping on.
April 26, 2021
Some good news!
We are still waiting for the outcome of Harry Miller's appeal, which was heard on March 8th and 9th 2021. I have written about this here.
But it was announced yesterday on April 25th that the Home Secretary has called for a review of the Hate Crimes Guidance and the reporting of 'non crime hate incidents' which is excellent news. It shows that the Government may have noticed which way the wind is blowing.
I am sure that part of what has helped the Government wake up to what is going on is the strong grass roots support for Harry Miller's court case, along with me and Miss B.
Fingers crossed we will soon have the Court of Appeal judgment in Harry's case which will add further impetus to either scrapping or very significantly re-drafting the Hate Crimes Guidance. If Harry loses, Miss B and I will continue.
Thank you for all your support so far.
Feb. 24, 2021
College of Police reply to my JR Grounds
The College of Police have now replied to my grounds for JR - is disappointing that they do not seem to engage with the Article 8 or data protection arguments but repeat much of their resistance to Harry Miller's appeal.
Harry will be in the Court of Appeal between 8-10 March - we aren't sure of exact dates yet - and we agree with the College of Police that the outcome of that hearing will be important for my and Miss B's application. If Harry wins, we will not need to proceed as the hate crimes guidance will be declared unlawful.
However, if Harry doesn't win, we will want to proceed as our legal arguments are different - although of course we all want to rely on Article 10 as very important.
Hopefully the court will now consider all the documents in front of it and agree that Miss B and I should have permission to apply for JR BUT that our applications will be 'stayed' while we wait and see what happens in the Court of Appeal.
Thank you for all your support so far and I will update you as soon as I can.
Feb. 1, 2021
And now we wait...
My application has been made and the College of Policing have 3 weeks to reply, then hopefully we are listed for a permission hearing. It seems unlikely that anything much will happen for the next six weeks on my case - but of course for Harry Miller's case the Court of Appeal date is looming in early March. If he wins and the College of Policing don't appeal, that may well have implications for my action. We shall see! I hope to attend the hearing and be live Tweeting.
My concerns about the elastic definition of 'hate' and its weaponisation have been brought into sharp focus in recent weeks. I was suspended from Twitter on 25th January for alleged 'hateful conduct'. I could discern nothing hateful in the tweet cited, so I appealed. My appeal was upheld on 28th January 2021 and I was told my account would be restored but so far I remain suspended.
Joanna Cherry QC then paid a heavy price for tweeting in support of me when I was suspended. A number of prominent accounts repeated the lie that I had been suspended from Twitter for 'transphobia' and 'Anti Semitism'. As I feared, being reported to the police was weaponised against me as if the police had investigated and found me 'hateful', rather than simply recording someone's subjective perception of what they had read.
I think this is a clear example of the very dangerous road we are going down. Does society seem any more safer or cohesive to you, now that we have given primacy to the offended perception of only certain groups? It does not to me. Quite the reverse.
Thank you for all your support so far and I will update you when I can.
Jan. 13, 2021
Grounds are being prepared and statement nearly done!
After some quiet time over Christmas, it looks like things are now moving fairly swiftly. My statement is nearly finished and the grounds are being drafted. I've had the odd and surreal experience of asking a friend to confirm via a statement that they don't find me or my tweeting 'hateful'.
Hopefully my application for permission to apply for JR will be heard along side Miss B's. I don't know what the timescales look like between the application and the decision, but hopefully its a matter of weeks not months.
I will let you know as soon as the application is made and hopefully can share with you the grounds.
Still haven't heard anything back from Wiltshire about whether or not they will delete the hate incidents but we will keep chasing.
I hope that the new year is better for all of us, but at the moment it does seem quite like the old year...
Dec. 8, 2020
Looking set to apply for permission in January 2021
As of today, December 8th 2020, Wiltshire have confirmed that they are continuing their internal investigation. Therefore I haven't exhausted my remedies so can't apply for JR against them. My solicitors have asked for their timescales as to when this investigation will conclude and if they refuse to delete the recording, we can consider what our next steps will be regarding legal action.
Therefore, am going to proceed against the College of Policing in judicial review and the plan is to issue around the same time as Miss B, a 14 year old who is also challenging the guidance as unlawful - you can visit her crowdfunder here.
Please do donate if you can, or share the link.
Our cases are clearly similar so it would make sense for them to be heard together and hopefully we will increase each other's chances of getting permission to go on to a full court hearing.
And hopefully the Keira Bell judgment will give further impetus to our assertion that it cannot possibly be 'hate' to discuss matters of such crucial importance; not only for our democracy and freedom of speech but about the lives and bodies of our children.
Nov. 20, 2020
College of Policing ask for 'more time'
Today, 20th November, was the deadline for response to my letter before action sent to both Wiltshire Police and the College of Policing. Both have written to my solicitor requesting 'more time' to reply as this matter is 'complicated'.
I agree. And I suspect would be a lot less complicated if anyone had bothered at the outset to give proper thought to the implications for society of a 'hate crime' guidance that permitted the secret recording of people's political views.
I have said I think it only fair to allow them some time to consider these issues. But I am also aware that there are very strict time limits in JR and the parties cannot agree to extend them. So I have suggested no more than a week for them to gather their thoughts.
I will keep you posted and thank you all again for your support. It means a lot.
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