Freedom of speech campaigners have branded the arrest of a gender-critical Catholic mother over a series of ‘malicious’ online posts ‘a waste of time on trivial nonsense’.
Caroline Farrow, a vicar’s wife and mother-of-five, shared how two Surrey Police officers reportedly ‘forced’ their way into her home to detain her on Monday night.
The row stems from a series of anonymous posts shared on forums on website Kiwi Farms in June. Mrs Farrow is accused of posting ‘malicious’ content and ‘harassing’ other users on the online platform.
This afternoon Toby Young, General Secretary of the Free Speech Union told MailOnline: ‘Police forces in England and Wales have been told by the Home Secretary and the head of the College of Policing to stop investigating Twitter spats and focus on crime.
‘Unfortunately, it seems like Surrey Police didn’t get the memo. If I was a Surrey resident who’d been burgled and couldn’t persuade the local police to do anything about it, I’d be extremely angry that they’re wasting time on this trivial nonsense.
‘Something has gone very, very wrong at Surrey Police. They need to get their priorities straight.’
Earlier Maya Forstater, who famously won a test case ruling gender-critical views were a protected philosophical belief under the Equality Act, called the arrest ‘shocking’.
Ms Farrow said it happened in the middle of preparing a roast dinner for her priest husband Robin and five children on Sunday,
Ms Farrow also shared pictures of the moment Surrey Police officers arrived at her home to arrest her over her Twitter feed
Caroline Farrow, a journalist and mother-of-five, shared a lengthy thread online detailing her experience with Surrey Police
Women’s Rights Campaigner Maya Forstater and Freedom of Speech Union General Secretary Tony Young both condemned it
The row allegedly stems from a series of anonymous posts shared on forums on Kiwi Farms in June
Two police officers are said to have demanded she join them for an interview under caution.
She told how when she asked ‘do you have a warrant’, Ms Farrow claimed they replied ‘We don’t need one’.
Photographs show one officer appearing to put his hand on the front door to stop her from closing it, and another shows her being searched outside.
A spokesperson for Surrey Police said officers attended the address in Guildford as part of a probe into ‘allegations of malicious communications and harassment’ , adding that officers ‘seized a number of electronic devices’.
Temporary Detective Chief Inspector David Bentley said the devices had been seized as police continue to ‘gather further evidence and carry out an investigation to prove or disprove the allegation’.
Mrs Farrow has strenuously denied the accusations, explaining instead that she was playing the organ during Mass at the Holy Angels Church, Aldershot during the times the posts were made.
She was previously the subject of a five-month police investigation in 2019 – after she was accused of calling a transgender woman a ‘he’ on Twitter.
Speaking to GB news last night, Mrs Farrow said: ‘I have been arrested for what was a twitter spat about gender issues.’
She explained how the officers confiscated electronic devices, including some at her husband’s parish office next door that her autistic daughter uses for home schooling.
Mrs Farrow told of how she was also taken outside and searched before she was taken to a police station, where she was kept for several hours.
She said: ‘One minute I was making dinner for my kids and then next I was having my socks checked for drugs. This took up an entire shift. What an absolute waste of police’s time.
‘I was then shown other material that police were accusing me of sending. None of them were my doing.’
Mrs Farrow was released under investigation in the early hours of Monday morning.
Mrs Farrow later shared images purportedly showing her being frisked by officers in her driveway, claimed her electronic devices were seized and said she had to surrender her jewellery before being interviewed at a police station in Guildford.
She tweeted: ‘When read my rights and told that what I said could be used in evidence against me, I replied that women don’t have an [aubergine emoji – often used online to refer to a penis].’
Farrow, who works at the UK and Ireland director of Catholic campaigning website CitizenGo, said the whole ordeal had left her feeling ‘harassed and anxious’.
She tweeted: ‘I know it’s procedure, but one minute I am cooking some roast chicken for dinner, the next I am having my socks searched for drugs, because of ‘insulting posts on the internet.’
‘It’s scary that the police can take someone’s word for something and just come and arrest you. All they could say is ‘we’ve had an allegation which needs to be investigated”.
Sentences for those found guilty under the Malicious Communications Act can be as long as two years.
Mrs Farrow, who once complained of her life being ‘invaded and dominated by insane trans rights activists’, has previously been publicly supported by Harry Potter author JK Rowling.
Mrs Farrow is accused of posting ‘malicious’ content and ‘harassing’ other users on the online platform
She has strenuously denied the allegations, explaining instead that she was playing the organ during Mass at the Holy Angels Church, Aldershot
Mrs Farrow was investigated by the same police force in 2019 over allegations she had used the wrong pronoun to describe a transgender woman.
The Catholic campaigner, known for her deeply held religious views, and Susie Green, the head of transgender children’s charity Mermaids, clashed on ITV’s Good Morning Britain about Girl Guides allowing children who have changed gender to join the organisation.
Mrs Farrow later called Ms Green’s daughter Jackie ‘him’ instead of ‘her’ on Twitter and said Mermaids promoted child abuse. Five weeks later, Ms Green complained to police.
One of Mrs Farrow’s tweets read: ‘What she did to her own son [the youngest person in the world to undergo transgender surgery] is illegal. She mutilated him by having him castrated and rendered sterile while still a child.’
The four-month Surrey Police investigation into Mrs Farrow, which prompted much controversy when made public, was hastily dropped as it hurtled towards full-blown fiasco.
A spokesperson for Surrey Police said: ‘On Monday, October 3, officers attended an address in the Guildford area as part of an investigation into allegations of malicious communications (sending of indecent, grossly offensive messages, threats, or information) and harassment.
‘A 48-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of both offences.
‘A number of electronic devices were seized as potential evidence from this address under section 19 of PACE. Where an offence is alleged to have been committed on an electronic device, for example, it may hold a key piece of evidence and may routinely be seized during an investigation.
‘The woman was taken to Guildford Police Station where she was interviewed. She has now been released under investigation and inquiries remain ongoing’.
Temporary Detective Chief Inspector David Bentley said: ‘There is significant commentary on social media around the perceived circumstances behind this investigation.
‘We do not have the freedom of detailing every stage of our inquiries or the specifics of an allegation on social media as it is critical we do not pre-empt or prejudice any future proceedings at any stage.
‘When we receive an allegation of a crime, in this instance one where a grossly offensive message is said to have been communicated, it is our job to assess it alongside any available evidence to identify if an offence has been committed.
‘If it has, we gather further evidence and carry out an investigation to prove or disprove the allegation. That is exactly the process that is being followed in this case.
‘The investigation into these allegations is very much ongoing and the relevant inquiries are being carried out.
‘We have a duty to protect the integrity of an investigation, so we will not be providing a running commentary on this case.’
Hounded by the thought police: How hate crime officers came knocking at the door of a devout Catholic who had misgendered a trans woman, but when she told them vile trolls had then threatened her family they did next to nothing
As a schoolgirl, Caroline Farrow relished discussing politics and current affairs around the kitchen table with her family.
Her parents, both teachers, encouraged robust debate and Caroline and her elder sister were precociously well informed.
‘Freedom of speech and expression was drummed into us from an early age,’ she says.
She was ten in 1984, a landmark year when George Orwell’s vision of a totalitarian future was revisited and reappraised.
Catholic journalist Caroline Farrow, 44, was told by Surrey Police that she had to attend an interview under caution or face arrest after she used the wrong pronoun to describe a transgender woman
Her father explained the novel’s concepts of Big Brother, Newspeak and the Thought Police, and Caroline was fascinated.
‘But I remember thinking at the time that none of it could ever come true,’ she says.
Now 44, and a trenchant Catholic journalist, priest’s wife and occasional TV commentator, Mrs Farrow was reminded of Orwellian themes last Monday when, in the middle of preparing dinner for her husband Robin and five children, a policewoman rang her at home with a startling demand.
Mrs Farrow was told she must attend an interview under caution or face arrest because she had used the wrong pronoun to describe a transgender woman.
Suddenly the dystopia described in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four began to feel all too real. Scarcely able to absorb what she was hearing, she felt, in sharp succession, disbelief, fear and anger.
Anger because Mrs Farrow herself had been the victim of a cyber stalking campaign which, at its vile worst, made her fear for her family’s safety – but which, she says, police failed to take seriously.
‘It’s double standards. When the complaint involves the word transgender, police leap into action,’ she says. ‘Something has gone terribly wrong in this country.’
In the event, the four-month Surrey Police investigation into Mrs Farrow, which prompted much controversy last week when made public, was hastily dropped as it hurtled towards full-blown fiasco.
Following a TV debate with Susie Green, the head of trans rights charity Mermaids, Mrs Farrow later called Ms Green’s daughter Jackie (pictured) ‘him’ instead of ‘her’ on Twitter and said Mermaids promoted child abuse
Critics called the probe a waste of time and money at a time when officers are struggling with high levels of knife crime.
The roots of the sorry affair appear to lie in a TV debate. Mrs Farrow, known for her deeply held religious views, and Susie Green, the head of trans rights charity Mermaids, clashed on ITV’s Good Morning Britain about Girl Guides allowing children who have changed gender to join the organisation.
Mrs Farrow later called Ms Green’s daughter Jackie ‘him’ instead of ‘her’ on Twitter and said Mermaids promoted child abuse.
Five weeks later, Ms Green complained to police.
One of Mrs Farrow’s tweets read: ‘What she did to her own son [the youngest person in the world to undergo transgender surgery] is illegal.
She mutilated him by having him castrated and rendered sterile while still a child.’
Many might consider Mrs Farrow’s choice of words unpleasant but she is unapologetic.
She says: ‘I deliberately used the words castration and mutilation to shock because what happens is shocking. I was trying to bring home the harsh reality of what she [Ms Green] did.’
Jackie Green, who was born male and was once known as Jack, began taking puberty-blockers at 12, and went to Thailand aged 16 for reassignment surgery, which is now illegal for under-18s.
Whatever one feels about the tweet’s tone, Mrs Farrow is convinced most right-minded people would agree it wasn’t criminal.
As anger surfaced, Mrs Farrow was left facing a tirade of abuse on social media which made her fear for her family’s safety
‘Yes, it was strong language but I wanted to make people sit up. I wanted to get the country talking about this. So much is changing in our society.
‘The notion of what it is to be a woman or a mother is being erased and rewritten by zealots. People are too scared to question what is going on. The tweets might possibly be spiteful but they were not intended to cause alarm or distress.’
Which is why Mrs Farrow was stunned to receive the phone call from the police officer on Monday as she juggled preparing a meal of gammon, roast potatoes and vegetables for her children – aged between four and 14 – with overseeing homework and music practice.
The message left on her voicemail said: ‘Hello there, I’m calling from Guildford police station… I need to have a chat with you about some tweets that have been sent.’
Mrs Farrow says: ‘My husband said, ‘You know it’s bound to be the trans stuff, you have been talking about this a lot lately and you know the lobbyists are looking to get you.’ ‘
She spoke to the officer later that night. ‘I pointed out that ‘misgendering’ wasn’t a crime and that as a Catholic I believed that sex could not be changed.
I explained that the country is in the middle of an ongoing national conversation about sex and gender, what it means to be male and female, and I was contributing to that in a professional capacity.’
The officer reiterated that the CPS had ‘authorised us to bring you in for a taped interview’.
That night, managing only an hour’s sleep, Mrs Farrow tried to make sense of what was happening. Naturally she feared the worst. Who would look after the children if she went to jail? She would be destroyed. Her husband would lose his job.
The following morning, Mrs Farrow instructed a solicitor. She says: ‘My lawyer said it seemed politically motivated but thought the case would be thrown out.
‘He warned that I was likely to face a tough interview. What was happening felt so unjust, especially as over the past few months I have endured an unimaginable campaign of harassment, targeting not only me, but my entire family.’
A very PC force’s links to trans charity
Flying the flag: Inspector David Harland calls himself a ‘trans ally’
Susie Green’s powerful transgender lobby group has forged close links with a police force behind a series of hate crime investigations.
West Yorkshire Police launched probes into an award-winning TV writer, a mother of four and a transsexual man following complaints from Mermaids.
But The Mail on Sunday can reveal that the force received ‘training sessions’ from Mermaids, which supports medical intervention for transgender children.
West Yorkshire Police has promoted Mermaids’ work, tweeting one of its leaflets.
Mermaids has also advised Merseyside Police, NHS staff, social workers, the Scouts and student nurses.
One West Yorkshire officer, Inspector David Harland, declared himself on social media to be a ‘trans ally’, adding that he was dedicated to ‘doing all I can for the trans community’.
In February last year, West Yorkshire sent officers to Wiltshire to investigate a mother of four following a complaint by Ms Green.
Echoing the Caroline Farrow case, Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull was questioned on suspicion of a malicious communications offence after Ms Green reported her for tweeting that Ms Green had illegally ‘castrated’ her ‘son’ by allowing him to have sex change surgery in Thailand at 16.
In April 2018, the force received another complaint, this time from Mermaid volunteer Helen Islan.
She claimed that transsexual Miranda Yardley, who has had gender reassignment surgery, had ‘outed’ Ms Islan’s transgender son by tweeting a picture of Ms Islan with her family, which included the child. West Yorkshire referred this incident to police in Essex, where Ms Yardley lives.
In a third case, West Yorkshire officers gave Graham Linehan, co-creator of the hit TV comedy Father Ted, a verbal harassment warning when transgender activist Stephanie Hayden reported him for referring to her as ‘he’ on Twitter.
A force spokeswoman said it was ‘committed to ensuring that anyone who feels targeted due to race, sexual orientation, religion, disability or gender identity is listened to’.
It should be noted that her stalkers were motivated not by her views on transgender issues but in part by the tragic case of Alfie Evans, the baby at the centre of a legal battle last year over turning off his life support.
It was a morally fraught case that aroused fierce debate, and Mrs Farrow joined the global campaign to keep him alive.
Mrs Farrow often comments on social issues and her deeply held conservative religious views have made her many enemies on social media.
Incensed by her intervention, opponents set up a blog solely for the purpose of attacking the journalist and her family.
On May 3 last year, five days after Alfie’s death, a Twitter account posted a link to her home address with the sinister message: ‘If anyone fancies having a chat with the illustrious Mrs Farrow…’
Even more distressing, someone posted a link to her children’s school.
Many of the abusive messages were sexually degrading, referencing her Catholic faith.
At one stage, trolls warned that their ‘agents’ were on their way to her village. Some of the most upsetting attacks involved her children and comments made about their appearance. Mrs Farrow says there were even attempts at extortion.
‘I was ordered to delete all my social-media accounts and pay the LGBT lobby group Stonewall £1,000 if I wanted the blog to cease operation.
‘They also got hold of our email addresses and set up accounts with pornographic websites in our name, and pictures. I had to cancel an order for £772 of sex toys.’
On January 8 – more than two months after Mrs Farrow made a formal complaint to police – one of the suspected trolls was questioned. But Mrs Farrow was later told no action would be taken.
‘I felt really let down. I have suffered so much with this, my mental health has deteriorated and I told the officer that this is the sort of thing that drives people to suicide. I was being hyperbolic, but then things turned nasty.
‘The policeman said he needed to report me to social services because I said I was suicidal. Social services called a few weeks later and after chatting to me said I was fine and they would not take it further.
‘Yet Susie Green makes a spurious complaint and, bingo, the police are straight on to me.’
Surrey Police said Mrs Farrow’s claims of harassment were fully investigated but ‘we were unable to find evidence that meets the threshold for criminal proceedings’.
Last Tuesday, the Farrows’ 14-year-old daughter had a starring role in a school recital. Mrs Farrow says: ‘I knew I was going to have to tell her [about the police interview] but I waited until after her concert.
‘She burst into tears at the idea that I could face jail, but regained composure when I said that it was highly unlikely.
‘I felt so guilty having to burden her with it and taint such a wonderful evening for her but I also knew that it wouldn’t be fair for her to find out from friends.’
The next day, Ms Green withdrew her complaint because she said she did not want to give Mrs Farrow a public ‘platform’. Instead of contacting police, she announced her decision on a television show.
Mrs Farrow believes police are only too willing to appease Ms Green and Mermaids, which she thinks is looking for a test case to codify misgendering into law.
Hers is not the first transgender ‘hate crime’ police have pursued. So far none of them have ended with a successful prosecution.
‘Orwell’s novel was a cautionary tale and an example of why we always need to be thankful for and guard our freedoms,’ says Mrs Farrow. ‘I never once envisaged I would face jail for refusing to state that man cannot be woman.’
Surrey Police said: ‘We requested Caroline Farrow attend a voluntary interview to understand her intent in relation to the tweets. Details of this invitation were publicly shared and there has been criticism of our decision to investigate.
‘We have been in contact with both parties as we have a duty of care towards both, and there was concern for their welfare as a result of publicity.
The victim will withdraw her allegation and has explained her reasoning. Without the support of the victim, it’s unlikely a criminal case could be brought.’