GOOD NEWS: England & Wales Police must defend freedom of expression even if controversial

Country: United Kingdom

Date of incident: March 13, 2023

A new code of practice on Non-Crime Hate Incidents (NCHI) introduced to UK Parliament in March clarifyies that simply causing offence is not enough to justify the police including someone's personal information in an NCHI. This comes in opposition to previous NCHI measures that unlawfully interfered with free speech. For example when the Police logged the personal details of a person in a NCHI record after receiving a complaint about a ‘transphobic’ tweet. This user, Harry Miller, appealed and won the case.

After Miller’s court victory, the College of Policing admited that "strongly held views" do not, by themselves, "amount to a criminal offence" and new measures to ensure this freedom have taken place in the  new code of practice on Non-Crime Hate Incidents (NCHI).

According to the new code, legitimate debate boundaries on "important social or political issues where there is likely to be strong differences of opinion" must be taken into account before recording any incident. 

The government has also instituted a new "threshold test," which states that only incidents that "present a real risk of significant harm to individuals or groups" may have personal information included in an NCHI record.

Prior to the announcement in Parliament, Home Secretary Suella Braverman stated to The Times that policing "must never include politically correct distractions," then adding that "people are perfectly entitled to say things about politics, gender, and religion that others find offensive. Disagreement is not incitement, and nor is irreverence or mockery."

Source: gov.ukThe TimesThe Christian Institute

Photo: UK Parliament