By Jonathon Van Maren
In the United Kingdom, it has been a relentless stream of bad news for those who value freedom of speech for several years now. A 38-year-old mother was arrested in front of her children and locked up in a cell at the police station in Hertfordshire. A docker in Northern England was investigated by the police for retweeting a funny limerick about transgenderism. A 74-year-old woman was contacted by the police in Suffolk and asked to take down some of her social media posts that were critical of transgenderism. One young man in Scotland was even fined and ordered to pay a transgender person nearly a thousand dollars for daring to laugh as he walked by.
But now, finally, there is some good news. As the Daily Mail reported earlier this month, the first attempt to actually prosecute Twitter behavior as a hate crime collapsed within a single day:
Britain’s first transgender hate crime prosecution has been halted by a judge who declared: ‘There is no case and never was a case.’ Miranda Yardley, 51, was put ‘through ten months of hell’ after being accused of harassing a transgender activist on Twitter.
But District Judge John Woollard dismissed the case after a one-day hearing, saying there was simply no evidence. Campaigners called the decision a victory for free speech, while the accused claimed police were being used to ‘enforce a political ideology’.
The hearing at Basildon Magistrates’ Court in Essex last Friday brought into sharp focus the complex and often rancorous divisions within the transgender community.
On one side was Yardley, an accountant, who describes himself as a transsexual and identifies as a man, even though he underwent gender reassignment to become a woman ten years ago. Despite his own experience, his contention is that individuals cannot change sex – and this has drawn fierce criticism on social media.
Giving evidence via video link was his accuser, Helen Islan, who is married with children and works with the trans advocacy group Mermaids, which campaigns for children who want to change gender. The court heard that one of her teenage children is transgender. The spat began with a discussion – joined by other Twitter users – about self-identification, which allows people to be recognised as transgender simply by declaring themselves male or female.
Concerns were also expressed about how the powerful trans lobby was allegedly eroding women’s rights by allowing transgender women, born male, into female-only spaces. This, it was argued, was a threat to women. But using a pseudonym, Ms Islan accused her opponents of ‘spreading hysteria’ and it was at this point the exchanges grew increasingly aggressive.
In response, she was unmasked by Yardley who tweeted a picture and a link to her real identity. The tweet also referenced her transgender child, which Ms Islan argued effectively ‘outed’ him. She said it led to them both being harassed adding that the post made her feel ‘stressed and sick’.
Initially, Ms Islan’s complaint was dealt with by West Yorkshire Police before being passed to colleagues in Essex, who decided it was a hate crime. But when the case reached court the defence referred to pages of social media posts in which Ms Islan herself was regularly tweeting about her trans child, about him taking blockers, that he had ‘come out’ at school.
The court heard that a simple search on Google brought up Ms Islan’s personal details, including a family photograph that she had herself posted. At one point during the hearing, Judge Woollard said: ‘Where is the evidence [of harassment] taking into account the need for free speech? You have to show a course of conduct and at the moment we have one tweet.
Where is the evidence for Miranda Yardley outing Ms Islan’s son?’ Later he threw out the case and awarded costs to the defendant. Yardley told The Mail on Sunday afterwards that he was ‘horrified’ by the decision to charge him, saying: ‘I faced losing everything I worked for.’
Barrister Amanda Jones, who has represented clients accused of ‘anti trans’ comments, said: ‘The police and the CPS routinely ignore rape threats, death threats and abusive material targeted at women online. The entire criminal justice system is falling apart from underfunding and this case appears to have been a complete waste of public funds.’
Hopefully, this case is an encouraging sign of things to come.
For anyone interested, my book on The Culture War, which analyzes the journey our culture has taken from the way it was to the way it is and examines the Sexual Revolution, hook-up culture, the rise of the porn plague, abortion, commodity culture, euthanasia, and the gay rights movement, is available for sale here.