Scottish prosecutors drop transphobia case against Marion Millar

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Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Scottish prosecutors have discontinued the case against a woman charged with posting allegedly homophobic and transphobic content online.

On Thursday morning, the Crown Office confirmed it had dropped proceedings against Marion Millar, a vocal opponent of the Scottish government’s plans for transgender law reform, ahead of a scheduled hearing next Monday and subject to a review with the alleged victims.

Millar, an accountant from Airdrie, had yet to plead, but her defence team, which included SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC, was planning to challenge the prosecution on human rights grounds.

The original complaint against Millar alleged she directed threatening or abusive behaviour at NEW a man and two women, including a police officer, via social media between October and June, contrary to section 38(1) of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010, this conduct being aggravated by prejudice relating to sexual orientation and transgender identity.

The case had attracted worldwide attention, characterised by critics – including gender-critical feminists – as an exemplar of an apparent clash between free speech, women’s rights and transgender rights, but the Guardian understands that the tweets in question did not directly refer to these arguments.

Many other feminists, LGBT advocates and others insist there is no such conflict between women’s rights and rights for transgender people, in particular around the issue of self-identification.

The Scottish government has confirmed that it will bring forward plans to introduce a simplified system by which transgender people can change the sex recorded on their birth certificate – known as self-identification – in the spring. Proponents of the reforms underline that this change in the law doesn’t impact the spaces or services transgender people use in their day-to-day lives, and would not see them gain any new rights in that regard that they don’t already have.

Millar had undertaken work for For Women Scotland, a group that describes itself as “working to protect women and children’s rights” and which brought a legal challenge against the Scottish government in January over its definition of “woman” in an act to improve gender representation on public boards. The challenge failed.

Millar has since left Twitter but previously her account included robust defences of gender-critical positions and calling for certain LGBTI activists to be kept away from schools and children.

Millar’s earlier court hearings attracted crowds of protesters, some dressed as handmaids from the Margaret Atwood novel, who chanted “women won’t wheesht [be quiet]” and accused the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon – who has committed to “zero tolerance” of transphobia within the SNP – of “destroying women’s rights”.

A spokesperson for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said: “Those directly involved have been informed of an update in this case and there is a right to call for a review of this. Until any review has been completed the question of whether or not there will be a prosecution remains open.”

Millar’s solicitor David McKie, said in a statement: “My client is very pleased to have received confirmation that the case against her had been discontinued by the crown. She had intended to defend the charge against her vigorously had it proceeded to trial and this decision brings a very stressful period to an end. In her view, it is the right decision for a whole number of reasons, not least of which is the cost to the public purse.“

The statement went on the thank “everyone who has supported her throughout this case including her family and friends, those who turned up at court, those who donated to her crowdfund and the many thousands who wished her well online and in person. That helped her greatly during a very stressful period in her life.”

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