A piece in yesterday’s Telegraph:
Home Secretary asks College of Policing for review into ‘non-crime hate incidents’ which can blight people’s careers for years
People accused of hate incidents that are not crimes should have the allegation wiped from their record, Priti Patel will tell police chiefs as she launches a review into the policy.
The Home Secretary has asked the College of Policing to carry out a review into “non-crime hate incidents” which can blight people’s careers years after they occur, The Telegraph can disclose.
Currently, if an individual is reported for committing a hate crime and an investigation by the police finds no crime has been committed, it will remain on their police record as a “hate incident”.
This can lead to individuals being disadvantaged in their daily life as the incident can show up on a vetting inquiry such as a DBS check, which discloses a person’s criminal convictions when they are applying for a sensitive job.
The policy – set out in College of Policing guidance late last year – reignited debate over the impact on freedom of speech and the use of police resources.
A Home Office source said: “These so-called ‘non-crime hate incidents’ have a chilling effect on free speech and potentially stop people expressing views legally and legitimately. If people are found to have done nothing wrong, the police shouldn’t punish them.”
Recording of hate remains mandatory, with no option for the police to dismiss a claim.
The College of Policing guidance said social media hate crime must be treated as “priority” and handled by senior officers. Officers were told that even where a crime had not been committed, they should consider visiting the accused at work and it should be recorded as a “hate incident”.
The recording of a non-crime hate incident on a person’s enhanced DBS check is explicitly written into the guidance, a move that potentially affects over 120,000 people who were recorded as having perpetrated a hate incident according to campaigners Fair Cop.
Last month a senior judge questioned the right of the police to record these “hate incidents” against academics who questioned whether trans women were women.
Lady Justice Simler said there was “legitimate public debate” over the issues and warned that the actions of officers could have a “chilling effect”. She asked whether it was “right” that a feminist academic should have a police report to her name for stating “trans women are not women in the context of that debate”.
Her comments emerged during the case of former police officer Harry Miller, who was challenging the guidance. Mr Miller, who had a hate incident placed on his record after posting allegedly transphobic tweets, argued that the guidance was unlawful and stifled freedom of expression.
Mr Miller, a founder of Fair Cop, described the guidance as a “move to a police state” which criminalised people for expressing an opinion. The guidance takes “everyday emotions, everyday antagonism, everyday banality and it turns it into hate”, he said.
Fair Cop welcomed the latest move.
Sarah Phillimore, the group’s co-founder, said: “People should be allowed to speak about important issues, such as women’s rights, without fear of being criminalised by malicious or overly sensitive people.
“I very much hope this marks the beginning of the end for the well-intentioned but deeply flawed hate crimes guidance.”
Mr Miller added: “The College of Policing Hate Crimes Guidance is an assault on freedom. It requires the police to remove the presumption of innocence and generate records without the need for evidence, let alone proof.
“It is also entirely useless. Of the 120,000 Non Criminal Hate Incidents recorded by the police since 2014, the police cannot point to a single actual crime being prevented as a result.
“We call on the Home Secretary to withdraw the Guidance, close down The College, and let the public reclaim a police service that is content with upholding the law.”
Asst Chief Constable Iain Raphael, of the College of Policing, said: “Freedom of speech is an essential part of our democracy. The guidance helps police balance the rights and needs of people complaining of non-criminal hate incidents without impinging on freedom of expression. Non-crime hate incidents can be precursors to subsequent violent crime.
“Without recording these incidents, we would not be collecting the information across communities which police need to monitor the build-up of tensions within a community. We would risk the police having a blind spot in their local understanding, hampering their ability to protect members of vulnerable and marginalised groups, and preventing future criminal behaviour.
“The findings of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry report, on which some of our guidance is based, demonstrated the importance for us of understanding how hate can escalate.
“Our guidance is aimed at protecting people who may be targeted because of who they are. We know this is an area where people may be reluctant to report hate incidents to us because of the very personal nature of what they experience or perceive.
“We of course review our guidance to ensure it is balancing the needs of individuals with those of the wider public. Hate crime can have serious consequences and it is vital the police have the right tools to help them protect the public.”
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