Readers will be aware of the landmark victory in the Court of Appeal won by former policeman Harry Miller – with our help – against the practice of the police recording ‘non-crime hate incidents’ (NCHIs) on people’s criminal records for perfectly lawful things they’ve said. I explained why this was such a significant case in Mail+ and interviewed Harry for an online FSU ‘Speakeasy’ last week (if you missed it, the video will be posted shortly on our YouTube channel). His victory was a major milestone in the struggle to restore freedom of speech in Britain.
But despite the judgement that the indiscriminate recording of NCHIs is a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, over a hundred thousand NCHIs remain on police databases. In many cases, they will continue to be disclosed during enhanced criminal record checks, meaning they will continue to blight people’s lives and risk them losing job opportunities or being barred from certain voluntary roles. Getting these records expunged is a top priority for the Free Speech Union and we are working to support several FSU members who have had particularly nonsensical NCHIs recorded against them. If you have had an NCHI recorded against your name and you’d like our help in getting it removed, please contact us at [email protected].
We’re hiring: join the campaign for free speech
If you’d like to get involved in our work, we currently have three vacancies to fill. Join our communications team as our Director of Digital Content and Marketing, or as our Communications Officer. We’re also looking for a Director of Data and Impact to help grow our membership base. We’re keen to fill the positions quickly, so will begin the interview process on a rolling basis. I’d encourage you to apply as soon as possible if you are interested.
Criminologist under investigation for warning about safety of female inmates
We have written to Professor Martin Jones, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Staffordshire University, in defence of our member Professor James Treadwell, a criminologist. He has been placed under investigation by the University after he contributed to the debate over gender self-identification and the risk it poses to female inmates in women’s prisons. His comments on Twitter prompted a complaint from trans activists.
The complaint against him made no substantive argument, as we see all too often, but simply objected to the fact that James had a different philosophical perspective to the complainants. Staffordshire should have dismissed the complaint out of hand but instead it has opened a disciplinary investigation, something that will inevitably have a chilling effect on the free speech of staff and students alike, to say nothing of the stress caused to Professor Treadwell and his family. We’ve called on the University to remind the complainants of their obligation to abide by the Staffordshire’s free speech policy, which states that students must “tolerate” opinions they disagree with even if they find them repugnant.
You can read the letter to the Vice-Chancellor on our website.
Our complaint to Edinburgh VC over Sir Geoff Palmer’s “racist gang” smear
If you receive our weekly news round-up you’ll be aware of the extraordinary attack launched by Sir Geoff Palmer, Chair of Edinburgh’s Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review Group, on two professors at Edinburgh University, Sir Tom Devine and Jonathan Hearn. Both were described as members a “racist gang” by Sir Geoff after they criticised his simple-minded and historically ignorant approach to cleansing Edinburgh of any trace of its colonial past. An article in the Spectator by Professor Hearn questioned the Review Group’s denunciation of Henry Dundas, the 1st Viscount Melville, as a defender of slavery.
We wrote to Professor Peter Mathieson, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Edinburgh University, calling on him to defend his colleagues from this baseless smear. In his reply to us, Professor Mathieson said he’d spoken to Sir Geoff about the matter. “I did not feel that the recent exchanges had always been conducted with he necessary respect for different perspectives and I have therefore spoken to the Chair of the Steering Group of the University’s Review, Sir Geoff Palmer, to clarify expectations under our Dignity and Respect Policy,” he wrote. Professor Mathieson said he would continue to monitor events. You can read the exchange in the ‘Blog’ section of our website here.
Acas employee investigated for speaking about harmful effects of woke racism on his interracial family
We’re supporting Acas employee Sean Corby, a member of the FSU, who has been accused of racism for posting on an internal, workplace forum criticising the negative impact of so-called anti-racist activism on interracial couples, including his own interracial family. As a result, he’s been placed under investigation and accused of making non-white colleagues feel ‘unsafe’. With our help, he was cleared of the initial complaint in October, only be told last week that the complainants have appealed this verdict and the investigation has been reopened.
Across the Civil Service, no one is allowed to dissent from the dogma of equity, diversity and inclusion, including people of colour. Indeed, woke activists treat black intellectuals who challenge this orthodoxy with particular contempt because they regard them as race traitors.
One of Sean’s posts shared an article by our founding director and GB News host Inaya Folarin Iman – apparently, one of the things that made Sean’s colleagues feel ‘unsafe’. She wrote about this for the Telegraph:
Narrow forms of social justice activism have moved to exploit the weakness and naivety of many organisations and, under the guise of seemingly benign ‘diversity and inclusion’ policies and practices, ideas influenced by identity politics are becoming institutionalised without debate. Once implemented, it becomes very difficult for organisations to roll back from them because they have created structures and incentives that perpetuate censorious thinking.
One of the most chilling aspects of this trend is the false consensus it creates. As institutions act as thought-police for their employees, they mislead the public into thinking these issues are settled, when in fact people are merely scared to express an opposing opinion. Institutions are in danger of compromising their impartiality if they fail to recognise the biases in their assumptions.
Supporting Timothy Luckhurst over the Rod Liddle imbroglio
We have been supporting our member Timothy Luckhurst, a professor at Durham University and the head of South College, who is under investigation because he invited Rod Liddle to give an after-dinner speech at his college. The first part of the investigation concluded last week, but it is ongoing and his fate is still undecided. Among other things, we wrote to Lord Wharton, the Chair of the Office for Students, highlighting the free speech issues engaged by this case, and after receiving the letter he gave an interview to the Telegraph in which he said: “As a point of principle it is important for students to engage with views and theories with which they may not agree. A robust but tolerant sharing of views is an essential element of the whole experience of higher education.”
You can read our letter to Lord Wharton here.
Case updates, victories and crowdfunding
Most of our successes in helping our members cannot be disclosed, either because they sign non-disclosure agreements as part of the settlements they reach with their employers or because they don’t want to appear on a woke blacklist. However, we have decided to pass on the thanks we received from a member whose case was successfully concluded last week without identifying him:
The Free Speech Union were an extraordinary support throughout what was a mercifully brief nightmare. Their expert guidance helped me to address the muddled allegations put to me about my human rights work outside office hours (the subject of the complaint) without everything escalating into an expensive and drawn-out matter in an industrial tribunal.
The Free Speech Union helped my employer see that there is nothing wrong with championing the rights of people with, what some seem to regard as, the least popular personal characteristic afforded protection under equality law, i.e. men and boys.
I will be eternally grateful to them.
Sometimes, our members need to raise money in order to fight their for their rights in the courts and we continue to be amazed at the generosity of our members when asked for their help. Rosie Kay’s crowdfunder has raised nearly £30,000 at the time of writing. Social worker and former nurse Rachel Meade is currently crowdfunding for her legal challenge against Social Work England after she was sanctioned for raising concerns about reform to the Gender Recognition Act.
If you’d like to support our work you can also donate to our general fighting fund.
Right of appeal if social media content is removed
In January we published our latest briefing on the Online Safety Bill. It considers the recommendations made in the report of the parliamentary Joint Committee on the Online Safety Bill. We have welcomed some of these, including the proposal that social media users who’ve had content removed unfairly should have the right to appeal to an independent ombudsman.
We’ve also endorsed the proposal that protections for “content of democratic importance” should be extended beyond journalists and politicians to the general public. Otherwise we would be in the odd position of holding ordinary members of the public with very small social media audiences to higher standards that journalists and MPs with hundreds of thousands of followers.
However, our fundamental concern about the legislation remain: social media platforms should only be legally obliged to remove content that is unlawful, not legal content that, according to some vague, nebulous definition is deemed to be harmful. Requiring them to remove so-called “legal but harmful” content opens up almost limitless scope for censorship.
You can read our briefing here.
Liberate academics from “Liberating the Curriculum”
Before Christmas we were alerted to UCL’s “Liberating the Curriculum” policy, a scheme designed to reduce the number of “dead white (able-bodied European) men” in university courses. Under the policy, anyone applying for a grade 8 job at the University must demonstrate their commitment to removing “dead white able-bodied European men” from reading lists, “check their privilege” and “acknowledge the prejudice baked into their field”.
We wrote to UCL’s Vice-Chancellor, Dr Michael Spence, to raise our serious concerns about the effect this policy would have on academic freedom at UCL. We also warned the University that the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill, which is on course to become law later this year, would likely make the obligatory components of the Liberating the Curriculum policy unlawful. You can read our letter and Dr Spence’s reply here.
Videos and podcasts
You can watch our ‘in-depth’ about the Equality Act with Exeter lecturer Dr Wanjiru Njoya, Professor James Allan, Dr Anna Loutfi and me here. And you can listen to me being interviewed by Brendan O’Neill about the second anniversary of the FSU here.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this monthly newsletter. Every victory is made possible because of the support of our members, and we have ambitious plans for the year ahead. Memberships start at just £2.49 a month, so please help us to carry on the fight by becoming a member and by spreading the word to friends and family, and sharing this newsletter on social media. Click here to sign up today.