Boris Johnson has recently criticised the police for wasting both time and resources arresting a mother of two for harassment and malicious communication due to transphobic Twitter posts.

The mother of two, Kate Scottow, was held for seven hours by police and arrested in front of her two young children after reportedly calling Stephanie Hayden; a transgender woman, a man on Twitter.

There has been a torrent of media coverage of the story via platforms all over the world, with headlines such as:

Boris Johnson attacks police for ‘wasting time’ after mother is arrested for calling transgender woman a man on Twitter – and now she’s being sued for £25,000 following spat” (Daily Mail)

Mum ‘locked up for seven hours’ after referring to a trans woman as a man on Twitter” (Metro)

As a result, the victim, Stephanie Hayden, has experienced a windfall of controversial comments on Twitter:

 

Notably, the media does not detail the full story, nor does it provide any insight into how Ms Hayden has been treated by Ms Scottow; it provides a one-sided account of how Ms Scottow has been treated as a result of the alleged harassment.

Ms Hayden has brought a civil claim against the mother for harassment. Ms Scottow denies that she has defamed or harassed Ms Hayden but has agreed to an interim injunction and agreed not to publish any personal information in relation to Ms Hayden.

What is harassment?

In 2018 alone, 44 million adults in the UK were active on social media platforms; representing 66% of the UK population.

It is important for social media users to understand that yes, they have a right to freedom of expression, but this does not mean that they have the right to express that opinion in a form which could be construed as harassment, or in any way defamatory towards another person.

Harassment is both a criminal act and can be brought as a civil claim. In the former, it may be reported to the police to investigate and, if necessary, enforce. It is harder to prove and may result in criminal sanctions. On the other hand, a civil claim involves the victim suing the perpetrator for financial compensation.

In order to establish a civil claim in harassment, the following needs to be presented by the person bringing a claim (i.e. the victim):

  1. a course of conduct (i.e. behaviour exhibited on two or more occasions) has been exhibited by the perpetrator;
  2. which is/was intended to cause the victim alarm or distress; and
  3. it occurred in circumstances in which a reasonable person would consider it harassment.

A right to be protected.

Every person in the UK has the right to be protected from harassment. This right should be protected by the public, not mocked and ridiculed. Just because somebody has an opinion, does not give said person the right to express it to another person’s detriment.

If you believe you are the victim of harassment and believe you have a civil claim; do not hesitate to contact Griffin Law