A landmark legal battle is set to unfold between a mother-of-two who says she was arrested for identifying a transgender woman as male, and the alleged victim who has repeatedly reported Twitter users to police for harassment.
38-year-old Kate Scottow from Hertfordshire says that her life has been turned upside down since police arrived at her house on December 1 last year to arrest her, bring her to a station, take her DNA and fingerprints, before opening an investigation that still hasn’t been resolved.
“I was arrested in my home by three officers, with my autistic ten-year-old daughter and breastfed 20-month-old son present,” Scottow wrote on popular online forum Mumsnet.
“I was then detained for seven hours in a cell with no sanitary products (which I said I needed) before being interviewed then later released under investigation… I was arrested for harassment and malicious communications because I called someone out and misgendered them on Twitter.”
Scottow says that her laptop and mobile phone have been retained as evidence, preventing her from working on her Masters degree in forensic psychology.
Hertfordshire police told RT in a statement that an investigation is “ongoing” but insisted that Scottow’s electronic devices have now been returned to her, and denied not issuing her with sanitary products, noting the “request is recorded on our custody system and the products provided.”
‘Reasonable belief that it is impossible to change sex’
The entire investigation was started following a complaint by Stephanie Hayden. She first became widely known last year after comedy writer Graham Linehan was issued with a police caution for “deadnaming” her – referring to her as “Tony” after her birth name Anthony Halliday – though she has pursued a string of similar complaints, including one against a transsexual lawyer.
In this case, Scottow is being accused of using two separate Twitter accounts to “harass, defame, and publish derogatory and defamatory tweets” about Hayden, calling her a “racist, xenophobic and a crook” and a “fake lawyer.”
Her defense insists that Scottow was expressing a “genuine and reasonable belief” that it is impossible to “practically speaking change sex.” Nonetheless, thanks to an injunction the judge has banned her from posting about Hayden online, or making any references to her previous identity.
Ironically for someone who has become the symbol of increased police attention on Twitter hate speech crimes (though she insists she is not an activist) Hayden has a long criminal record herself.
Legal news site RollOnFriday reported last year that in 1999, while still Anthony Halliday, she was convicted of assaulting a man with a golf club, while abusing her victim as a “big fat bastard.” During the sentencing the judge noted Halliday’s previous convictions for disorderly behavior and dishonesty.
‘Are we getting to the PC tipping point?’
The case has attracted comment from several prominent conservative voices and free speech advocates.
“You can’t police properly if officers are endlessly filling custody suites with 38 year old mums whose crime is to have caused needless offense on Twitter,” wrote former foreign secretary Boris Johnson in his Telegraph column.
“Are we getting to the PC tipping point yet? This is insane and has to stop,” tweeted Donald Trump Jr.
“UK is f***ed,” surmised Australian newspaper columnist Rita Panahi.
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