Do you still doubt freedom of speech in Britain is at risk? Take a look at the latest plans from the Law Commission, which proposes a sweeping and horribly misguided extension of Britain’s already-sprawling ‘hate crime’ laws.

The judges and academics advising the Government on legal reform want to extend the definition of hate crime in the Public Order Act 1986 to include people who ‘stir up hostility’ against ‘transgender and gender-diverse’ people. This would lead to harsher criminal sentences.

Transgender people can live peacefully and with understanding. In a civilized society, violence, cruelty and abuse are not allowed.

But, recently, the pro-trans lobby — many not themselves transgender — have been viciously accusing prominent feminists of being ‘hostile’ towards them, simply for insisting that there are two biological sexes and that only women have wombs.

JK Rowling is banned effectively from anniversary celebrations for Harry Potter. In October, Kathleen Stock was expelled from her position at Sussex University.

Millionaire author JK Rowling (pictured in 2019, file photo) has effectively been banned from the anniversary celebrations of her literary creation, Harry Potter

JK Rowling, a millionaire author (photo in 2019 file photo), has been effectively banned from celebrating the Harry Potter anniversary.

Both these women have received multiple rape and death threats: no small degree of ‘hostility’.

The Law Commission’s proposals would create a two-tier society. While transgender people, as well as those with disabilities, would gain extra protections, sex and gender would not become ‘protected characteristics’ under the act.

If the proposed laws are implemented, transgender crimes could be punished with longer sentences than offences against biological women.

And that is against the essential principle natural justice states, which says everyone is equal before the law.

Yes, the Law Commission proposes additional ‘protection’ for the ‘gender-critical’ — some might call them common-sense — views expressed by the likes of Rowling and Stock.


But it is a miserable moment when women need ‘protection’ from the Government to express heartfelt, legitimate views shared by the vast majority of the population.

The whole sorry debate smacks of legal ‘mission creep’. As Harry Miller of the free-speech pressure group Fair Cop said yesterday: ‘The law is moving from protecting the individual towards protecting and regulating ideologies.’

What’s more, the Government has reportedly accepted another Law Commission proposal: one that would empower courts to jail internet ‘trolls’ for words that might cause ‘psychological or emotional harm’.

Online trolls are not loved by everyone.

But this law sounds like a blank cheque for state censorship — and, however well-intentioned, a crime against free speech.

After all, if someone tells you your words have caused them ‘psychological or emotional harm’, how can you dispute or defend yourself against it?

Disgracefully the Law Commission tried to make hate crimes of private speech in the house last year.

Are they sure they deserve an applause round for defending this outrageous, un-British concept?

In October, Professor Kathleen Stock (pictured) was driven out of her post at Sussex University

Kathleen Stock (pictured) was forced out of her Sussex University position in October.

It is alarming to see how comfortable authorities are with limiting once beloved liberties.

Many people don’t know what they can or cannot say. This is a consequence.

Fear of consequences for exercising freedom speech rights is a major reason we live in this age.


Wantonly causing offence is rarely something to celebrate — but nobody has the right never to be offended. It is not often possible to find the truth except by challenging ideas that are often controversial.

Durham University students should hear this from someone. Rod Liddle (journalist) was invited to address the students last week. Some students left in disgust after he delivered some humorous, but not too acerbic remarks.

The College principal, Professor Tim Luckhurst, reminded these youngsters that ‘we value free speech’ and — rather provocatively — called those who walked out ‘pathetic’.

The result was a scandalous national event that should have been an enjoyable, but not parochial, evening.

More than 1,000 students pompously signed an ‘open letter’ to the university authorities, declaring that they felt ‘distressed’ and ‘emotional’ after Liddle’s ‘sexist, racist, transphobic and classist’ speech: behaviour that might be seen entirely to endorse Professor Luckhurst’s incendiary adjective.

Yet despite apologising for calling them ‘pathetic’, and admitting in a spirit of fairness that students had ‘as much right to absent themselves from the speech as my guest had to make it’, Professor Luckhurst has now been barred from his duties and silenced, while the university has launched an investigation into him.

What is culture war? More of a surrender unconditionally by the people charged with upholding civilisation’s values.

Pictured: A march in support of the Black LGBTQ+ community on June 27, 2020 in London, England. The Black Trans Lives Matter march was held to support and celebrate the Black transgender community

Pictured: The Black Trans Lives Matter march was held in London on June 27, 2020 to support the Black LGBTQ+ community. Black Trans Lives Matter marches were held in support of and celebrations for the Black transgender population

Free speech has always been under attack — but the threats change with time. Totalitarian governments sought to suppress free speech during the 20th century. From the ground up, we face censorship demands today.

In a past generation, young and optimistic Left-wing activists were fighting those in power for the right of thought, speech, and action.

Now the young culture warriors of identity politics, crazed with their power to cancel people, demand less freedom, more bans on ‘hate speech’, and the right to ‘no platform’ those who disagree with them. They are against free speech.

Radical neopuritans need to be able to voice their opinion. Of course, free speech also includes the ability to disagree with it.

The problem, as Rod Liddle and Kathleen Stock’s cases show, is that those in authority are giving in to a handful of activists and spinelessly submitting to their demands.


It’s time to raise a banner for free speech — and to rally the many around it. We must remember that freedom of speech should be available to everyone, not only those with whom we agree.

It is important to differentiate between inciting violence and offensive views. After all, only speech liable to ‘offend’ will ever need defending in the first place.

First, it is important to recognize that protecting free speech cannot be done easily. This is not to silence others and to allow them to be censored. But however difficult it might be, there is always one thing worse than tolerating and, where necessary, fighting for free speech — which is living in an unfree society.

We must stop going down this treacherous road.

  • Mick Hume is the author of Trigger Warning: Is The Fear Of Being Offensive Killing Free Speech?’ (William Collins)