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Friday, 12 March 2021

Is It Time To Abolish Hate Crime Law?

*This piece was written before the advertised tabling of The House of Lords debating an amendment to hate crime law, adding misogyny.  Comments added at the end of the post in this regard.

Apologies for the sheer length of this post, but it turns out, I had a lot to say.

Image Credit

Firstly, lets deal with the facts.  What is classed as a hate crime and what is a hate incident?  

According to the Met Police, a hate crime is:

'Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person's race or perceived race; religion or perceived religion; sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation; disability or perceived disability and any crime motivated by hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender.'

According to the Gov.uk website, the number of hate crimes since 2011 were reported as below:

2011 -2012                43748 
2013 - 2014              44480
2015 - 2016              52528
2016 - 2017              94098
2017 - 2018             103,379
2019 - 2020             105,090

As can be seen from the figures, following the Government's introduction of "Action Against Hate" in July 2016, the hate crime figures have doubled.

A hate incident is: 

'Any incident which the victim, or anyone else, thinks is based on someone’s prejudice towards them because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or because they are transgender.'

Evidence of the hate element is not a requirement. You do not need to personally perceive the incident to be hate related. It would be enough if another person, a witness or even a police officer thought that the incident was hate related.

Non-crime hate incident reports were introduced in 2014 after recommendations were made by the independent Macpherson inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence.

The College of Policing’s definition of a hate incident is “any non-crime incident which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice” towards a person because of their characteristics.

Police guidelines have also been updated so that they apply to schoolchildren and state that hate incidents can include “ill-will, spite, contempt, prejudice, unfriendliness, antagonism, resentment and dislike”.

School children, can be prosecuted, for a hate incident.   A simple falling out in a playground can now lead to prosecution. 

In the past five years, 120,000 non crime hate incidents have been recorded by the police.  Yes, that is a non crime hate incident.  

As we know from the case of Harry Miller, a hate incident can be reported to the police and investigated for as little as someone being merely told about a retweet, not even related to or about them, but that might cause them offence.

What we also know is that the person reporting the hate incident is automatically called "the victim" in the report, and following a consultation by the CPS started in 2016, worryingly, in order to treat a crime as a hate crime for the purposes of investigation, there is no need for evidence to prove the aggravating element.

These non crime hate incidents can be recorded against you, without you ever been informed of the fact.  Barrister Sarah Phillimore recently discovered, after a Twitter user boasted that the police had a record for life for hate crime against her, that the police held twelve pages of tweets that had been recorded by the police as non crime hate incidents.  These records stay on your DBS checks for six years.

As an experiment, she posted a tweet joking that her cat was a Methodist and asked a friend to report her for a hate incident.  After all, what is one more report when you have twelve pages of "incidents" against you?

When reporting the tweet, her friend was asked why he thought her tweet was hateful, to which he replied that she meant to imply that Methodists were "wandering pests were that defecate in people's gardens".  South Yorkshire Police dutifully recorded the incident.

In the title of this post I asked whether it was time to abolish hate crime law?  The answer, for me, has to be yes.

Whilst inciting violence against other or a protected group is wholly wrong and should be dealt with as a crime, the definitions of a hate crime have been stretched and broadened to the extent that anyone saying the most innocent thing, or, a biological fact; can be investigated.

Think of Paul Lancaster for his airport tweet.  Think of Mark Meechan aka Count Dankula for recording his pug doing a "Nazi salute".   Think of Harry Miller.  Think of 120,000 people who have non crime hate incidents recorded against them, for no crime committed.

You might disagree with what these people have said or done.  But free speech cannot exist only when you agree with it.

I read many things on the internet every single day.  I see abuse, harassment and threats made against people like me for example who believe that biology is a fact and that sex should remain a protected class.  Unlike with Scotland's newly amended hate crime law which omits to include sex as a protected characteristic.

I have removed the identity of the poster in the image below, but all details are documents in the link above.

Can you imagine if that tweet had been made about one of the protected characteristics just as religion, sexual orientation, race or transgender identity?  The police would be at your door.

Hate crime law needs to be abolished because it is no longer fit for purpose and is being actively used as a weapon against people. 

Hurt feelings should not be a crime.  A disliked comment should not be a crime.  Someone being rude or who offends you might be a cruel person, but cruelty is not a crime.  Someone stating biological fact is not a crime.  A childish insult in a playground should not be a crime.

All that current hate crime/hate incident law is creating is a generation that cannot cope with life.  A world where words are actual violence.  A world where a slight against you becomes a crime.

How far can this go?  Well look at this article from July 2020 (see image at top of post).  A hate crime investigated, because of a car tyre track on a road.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to live in that world.  And neither should you.

**ADDED to cover The House of Lords proposed debate to add misogyny to hate crime

From what I understand from the proposals, the policy will not criminalise anything that was previously legal i.e. a sexual assault against a woman is still a sexual assault, but would additionally be recorded as a hate crime.  

My comments as above still stand in that anyone advocating violence against other should be a crime.  Adding a hate crime factor to something that is already illegal I do not have any issues with.  But, in all honesty, I do not think that it will help women.  At all.

Adding a hate crime element to an already existing crime does not help women.  It will not make those men who would wish to commit a crime against a woman think against because he may also have a hate crime against his name.

Reporting will still be split into hate crimes and hate incidents.  An article which reported on a study done on a trialling of misogyny becoming a hate crime in Nottinghamshire noted that 174 reports were made by women between April 2016 and March 2018.  73 were classified as a crime and 101 as a hate incident.  

The report noted after concerns about the policy being trivialised in the media, that things wolf whistling would not be a hate crime.  As this is not illegal.  It could however be recorded as a hate incident.

Here is where I will probably receive, ironically, hate from some circles.  

Wolf whistling is not a hate incident.  A builder catcalling you from a scaffold is not a hate incident.  It is, as a woman I know, irritating at best and can be intimidating.  But I do not think that the answer to this is recording these incidents as a hate incident.

I do not know the answer for improving women's safety.  But I do not think that "hate incidents" being recorded will help.  Recording a non crime hate incident on someone's record, on their DBS check, will not help.

I think that it will increase misogyny.  I think it will put a greater divide between men and women.  And that is the last thing we want.