The police should not secretly record us as 'hateful'.

by Sarah Phillimore

The police should not secretly record us as 'hateful'.

by Sarah Phillimore
Sarah Phillimore
Case Owner
I am a barrister who specialises in family law. Since 2018 I have joined the discussion on line and in real life about sex, gender and how we identify. I would like to continue.
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Sarah Phillimore
Case Owner
I am a barrister who specialises in family law. Since 2018 I have joined the discussion on line and in real life about sex, gender and how we identify. I would like to continue.
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Latest: 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 H…

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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. 

Summary 

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. 

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Update 5

Sarah Phillimore

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. 

Update 4

Sarah Phillimore

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. 

Update 3

Sarah Phillimore

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... 

Update 2

Sarah Phillimore

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. 

Hopefully things will be moving forward swiftly in the new year. Thank you so much for getting me almost half way to my stretch target of £60K.  



Update 1

Sarah Phillimore

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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