New hate strategy ‘could criminalise comics like Ricky Gervais’

UK Home Office draws up plans to encourage more people to complain to police over anti-trans hate crimes

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Plans to encourage more people to complain to police about anti-trans hate crimes could criminalise comedians such as Ricky Gervais, campaigners have warned.

The Home Office is in the process of drawing up a new hate crimes strategy that aims to ‘increase the reporting of all forms of hate crime’, including those relating to gender identity.

Those in favour of the proposals, which would see ‘perpetrators’ accused of ‘non-crime hate incidents’, hope people will feel better protected from harm.

But free-speech campaigners fear the new drive could see comedians criminalised for telling jokes, particularly about the rise of transgender ideology.

The plans are being developed despite a court ruling last year, which ordered police to stop recording gender-critical views as non-crime hate incidents, which are declarations of wrongdoing added to someone’s criminal record.

Last night, Sarah Phillimore, a barrister from the Fair Cop campaign group, said that Ministers’ plans ignored the Appeal Court ruling and could put the police on the wrong side of the law.

She said: ‘These plans suggest either that the Government is not paying attention, or that they have contempt for the Court of Appeal. Either way, it is astonishing that legislators are planning to expand the discredited and unlawful practice of recording non-crime hate incidents [NCHIs]. Following Fair Cop’s win in the Court of Appeal in December, the College of Policing promised to publish revised hate crime guidance by the end of May this year. We’re still waiting. Police forces that record complaints against comedians – or any other lawful speech – as NCHIs will be piling illegality upon illegality.

‘They will then find themselves in court with no legitimate defence. This quixotic strategy oozes arrogance, as if the law does not apply if you’re fighting for ‘the right side of history’.

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