A teenager with Aspergers was fined nearly $800 and be placed under a strict 3-month curfew for asking an apparently transgender police support officer, “is it a boy or is it a girl?”
Declan Armstrong (19) is said to have offended the officer, Connor Freel, who was reportedly left “upset and embarrassed” by the question.
Freel’s counsel elaborated on how he reacted:
“To have something shouted at him that had such personal connotations whilst he was on his own in the middle of a public place that was rather busy due to market day footfall did leave him vulnerable, distressed, and embarrassed.”
It also made Freel “reluctant” to work by himself in the future.
While Armstrong denies asking the question, he was convicted of violating the Welsh Public Order Act 1986 by “using abusive or insulting words with intent to cause harassment.”
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His sentence was also raised from “a low level to a medium level community order because of its transphobic nature.”
Of the fine, $261 went directly to Freel.
The conviction is especially galling considering Armstrong has Aspbergers, as “individuals with Asperger’s Disorder usually want to fit in and have interaction with others, but often they don’t know how to do it. They may be socially awkward, not understanding conventional social rules or show a lack of empathy.”
In contrast, Freel is a seasoned transgender activist who worked to “raise awareness of transphobic hate crime” and has been part of a campaign “to show more vulnerable members of the community that being transgender was not something to hide”. Freel has even done television interviews about his experiences.
Several pictures of Freel in uniform show him wearing an LGBTQ pride flag pin:
Court records show “the aggravating features of the case were that Mr. Freel was performing a public service as a PCSO, and the incident was in a busy town centre where other people could hear what was said.”
But isn’t Freel proud of being transgender? After all, its “not something to hide,” right?
The Crown Prosecution added: “Comments deliberately targeting a person in this way have no place in modern society. The CPS takes any hate crime allegation extremely seriously and we will robustly prosecute cases that meet the Code for Crown Prosecutors.”