Police have rebuffed any suggestion of “controlling people’s thoughts” after they were criticised for questioning a man who ‘liked’ a derogatory transgender-focused limerick on social media.
53-year-old Harry Miller spoke to Humberside Police for half an hour six days ago after a complaint was made about a poem posted on social media.
Police told Miller they were investigating a report of a “hate incident” made by an unnamed complainant, regarding a limerick he had “liked” that featured the line: “your breasts are made of silicone, your vagina goes nowhere.”
Miller, who goes by the name of HarryTheOwl on Twitter, detailed his exchange with police via Twitter.
Though the origin of the limerick is unclear, it is thought to derive from the chorus of an 18th-century Irish soldiers’ song, “Will You Come Up to Limerick?” where the challenge was to add impromptu verses crowded with improbable incident and subtle innuendo.
Assistant Chief Constable Scott Young has defended the decision to investigate Miller though
"Following media coverage over the last few days, I want to take this opportunity to provide some clarity around why the police investigate hate incidents.
"Hate incidents can cause extreme distress to victims and communities, some of whom are incredibly vulnerable members of our society. A hate incident is recorded as such if the victim perceives the actions taken to be wholly, or partially, motivated by hostility or prejudice.
"This relates to any actions, whether spoken or written, around race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and transgender.
"We, and all forces, follow College of Policing guidance in relation to handling reports of hate incidents, which can often be a precursor and can escalate to more serious crimes and we, as the police, have a responsibility to prevent crime.
"In this case, there were more than 30 tweets reported to us of a transphobic nature, not just a liked or retweeted limerick as some reports have suggested.
"This isn’t a case of the ‘police controlling people’s thoughts’. The actions taken by the individual and his comments made around transgender caused someone distress. We take all reports of hate related incidents seriously and aim to ensure they do not escalate into anything further.
"The correct decision was made to record the report as a hate incident (as opposed to a hate crime in which a full investigation would have followed), and to proportionately progress by making contact with the individual concerned to discuss the actions taken on social media.
"There is evidence to show hate related incidents are already under reported with people feeling they won’t be taken seriously and not having confidence in the police.
"I want to offer my reassurance that we will always take reports of this nature seriously, and as with this case, take proportionate action."