Psychotherapist blocked from studying ‘trans regret’ takes case to the European Court Telegraph 05.02.21

The original article is here.

A psychotherapist blocked from studying ‘trans regret’ at university is taking his case to the European Court.

James Caspian, 61, planned to study the experiences of people who have detransitioned as part of an MA at Bath Spa University, but his idea was rejected because it was “too ethically complex for a piece of research at master’s level”.

When Mr Caspian proposed the project, the university’s ethics subcommittee said: “attacks on social media may not be confined to the researcher but may involve the university.”

After having his proposal rejected because researching a non ‘politically correct’ topic for a Masters dissertation could attract criticism, and because his university feared a backlash as a result, he has now embarked on the next stage of his legal battle by taking his case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Submitting his case to the ECHR, his lawyers will argue that Mr Caspian, a counsellor with 10 years of experience specialising in therapy for transgender people, has exhausted domestic remedies to have his case heard.

They will also claim that his right of access to court has been violated, his freedom to pursue legitimate academic research has been breached, and that the basis of the decision to interfere with his academic freedom discriminated against him.

Mr Caspian, who is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre, said that he has “been faced with no alternative” but to take the case to Europe.

“Too much is at stake for academic freedom and for hundreds, if not thousands, of young people who are saying that they are being harmed and often silenced by a rigid view that has become a kind of transgender ideology and permits no discussion,” he said.

“My preliminary research had revealed a growing controversial schism in transgender politics and inpatient experiences which greatly concerned me and confirmed the need for this research.

“Some of the people I spoke to said they were too traumatised to speak about their experiences, which proved it was even more important to research the issue, not less.

“I was astonished therefore that a university could censor a research project on the grounds that what people ‘might’ post on social media may be detrimental to the reputation of the university.”

The psychotherapist added: “If a university – a place for the exchange of ideas, discussion, dissent, questioning, research and critical thinking – is unable to tolerate the risk of criticism, where then are left the most basic tenets of academic and intellectual freedom of enquiry?

“The implications for a democratic society of the suppression of information and discussion are deeply worrying.

“I have felt morally obliged to speak out because people are telling me that they’ve been harmed, and my profession should do no harm…

“…People are self-censoring, not only speech, but their thoughts on this issue, and that is what this case has to challenge and ultimately help change.”

His legal battle comes in the wake of a landmark High Court ruling in which judges said trans children should not receive the controversial drugs unless they understand the “long-term risks and consequences” of the process.

The case was brought against the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust by Keira Bell, a 23-year-old woman who began taking puberty blockers before “de-transitioning”. She said the clinic should have challenged her more over her decision to transition to a male when she was 16.

Mr Caspian had taken his case to the High Court in 2019 where he told the hearing: “That is not academic judgment, that is terror on the streets of our universities.”

However, the judge, Michael Kent QC, quashed their case, saying: “I entirely accept that there are important issues of freedom of expression.

“I just do not accept that, on the facts of this particular case, there is an arguable case made out.”

A decision by the EHRC as to the admissibility of the case is likely to occur in the first half of 2021.

A spokesperson for Bath Spa University said: “Mr Caspian’s MA research proposal was not refused because of the subject matter, but rather because of his proposed methodological approach.  The University was not satisfied this approach would guarantee the anonymity of his participants or the confidentiality of the data.

“Mr Caspian has sought to apply for judicial review twice and was unsuccessful on both occasions. The High Court concluded in 2017 that Mr Caspian’s application for a judicial review was ‘totally without merit’.”

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