The chairman of the editorial board of A-Level Law Review, Ian Yule, has quit his role after an article he wrote for the education magazine, summarising a legal judgment, was heavily edited and put through a sensitivity reading from transgender rights charity Mermaids.
A-Level Law Review is published by Hodder Education and is intended to provide "topical articles, contextual coverage of legal developments and expert exam advice" to help "deepen ... students' subject knowledge and help them develop independent learning skills". For a recent issue, Yule had summarised a High Court test case on freedom of expression, in which Humberside police had issued a warning to Harry Miller over an allegedly transphobic tweet and the actions of the police were found by the High Court to have violated his free speech. In the judgment that was handed down, Mr Justice Julian Knowles in February drew comparisons with the Gestapo and Stasi while saying the effect of police turning up to Miller's place of work over the matter "because of his political opinions must not be underestimated".
According to the Sunday Times, on receipt of the article from Yule, Hodder Education "heavily edited" the court report, removing two thirds of the original. After this, Mermaids was then invited by the publisher to offer "examples ... to counteract the tone and opinions in the piece" and to suggest changes to "anything you feel is untrue, unfair and/or offensive", which resulted in substantial feedback from Mermaids' head of legal and policy and further changes being suggested.
Yule objected to the editing of the piece and to Mermaids' review, telling colleagues that "in the process of ‘reviewing’ my article they effectively destroyed it". He told the Sunday Times: "This article contained little or no commentary by me, and no comments whatsoever on the issue of transgenderism. My article did not express my own thoughts or beliefs but was a straightforward and accurate report of a High Court judgment ... If the judgment of a respected High Court judge is likely to upset such students and their teachers, they have no business studying or teaching this subject.”
James Benefield, senior publisher at Hodder Education, told the newspaper that it was "an issue of balance rather than of censorship or freedom of speech". When he sent Yule the Mermaids review, he had told him, he said: "Mermaids have requested quite a few changes here. It is important we do follow all of the attached advice — not only is it from a trans-specialist organisation, it is also from the company lawyer who felt they were best placed to review the piece."
Hodder Education commented for the publication: "In editorial disputes, it is good practice to go to an external body for a second opinion. We approached a couple of organisations for this. [Yule] chose not to engage with the Mermaids review or, for the most part, our edits. We work with many different organisations and individuals to review content, including authors, academics, charities and special interest groups."