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Watch what you tweet: CPS promises to crack down on social media hate crime

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But lawyers have concerns

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) launched a campaign on hate crime today, promising to “treat online crime as seriously as offline offences”.

Prosecutors have put out new public statements on how they approach crimes motivated by “hostility or prejudice” against the victim because of their disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity, as well as updating the official legal guidance on hate crime prosecutions.

Announcing the campaign, director of public prosecutions Alison Saunders specifically mentioned the aristocrat — Rhodri Phillips, 4th Viscount St Davids — who was jailed over menacing Facebook posts about Brexit campaigner Gina Miller. Reports of hate crime rose sharply in the aftermath of the EU referendum.

There are specific hate crime offences, such as stirring up racial hatred, but prosecutors can also ask for a stiffer sentence following almost any crime if they can show that it involved hostility or prejudice against, for example, gay people.

The CPS’s hardening line may result in stiffer sentences for hate crime perpetrators, both on and offline. Saunders revealed today that prosecutors successfully applied for a sentencing uplift in over half of hate crime cases last year — up from just 4% a few years ago.

Saunders acknowledged that some people might find the new guidance on online behaviour “heavy-handed”. She’s not wrong there:

But Labour MP Luciana Berger, herself the victim of anti-Semitic abuse, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that threats and abuse have “as much impact… online as it would have physically, in person”.

Other lawyers applauded the campaign’s aim, but worried that the criminal justice system won’t be able to handle an increase in hate crime work.

And there were even questions about whether the CPS’s own rules will get in the way:

The authorities say that they’ll “prosecute complaints of hate crime online with the same robust and proactive approach used with offline offending”. And they suggest that “amplifiers or disseminators” of criminal social media — such as retweeters, we’d suggest — might be targeted, as well as “originators”.

Younger people may be treated more leniently, though: the CPS says it understands that “children may not appreciate the potential harm and seriousness of their communications”.

As the CPS points out, not all online bullying, even if based on the likes of race or disability, will amount to a hate crime. But social media stupidity doesn’t have to cross the line into criminal offending for it to mess up your career prospects — Legal Cheek reported just last week that solicitor Majid Mahood was suspended for a year after regulators were told about anti-Semitic Facebook posts.

Even members of the judiciary aren’t immune to the lure of an anonymous rant: Jason Dunn-Shaw was sacked from Canterbury Crown Court last year after taking the fight to online critics of his decisions.

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37 Comments

(The Real) Trumpenkrieg

She’s feathering her own nest by virtue signalling ahead of going on to become a Labour MP or peer

(14)(3)

Anonymous

She should prioritise acid attacks and domestic violence.

Not hurt feelings.

(11)(1)

Corbyn. Symphathiser

Because as we all know, the CPS can only do one thing at a time.

(3)(5)

Corbyn is a loser

The CPS fails on a regular basis to take care of the significant real-world issues with which it is currently tasked, frequently citing lack of resources. Why are they now devoting resources they can’t spare, to address problems that have few, if any, consequences beyond hurt feelings? I don’t normally side with Trumpenkrieg, but he/she/it hit the nail on the head with this one.

(12)(3)

Anonymous

I think you underestimate the impact which online hate speech can have. If women, BME people, gay people, TG people or any other group disproportionately receive hate messages when they express a view then there is a real danger of a chilling effect in public discourse disproportionately affecting those groups. It is vitally important that, as the world adapts to new technologies, we put in place the foundations for a society in which there isn’t de facto punishment of anyone who speaks while not being a white cis male. It’s an important public policy issue which goes beyond ‘hurt feelings’.

And as the commenter above me points out, it’s disingenuous to suggest that taking this kind of crime seriously means taking others less seriously.

Ciaran Goggins

Clown Prosecution Service? Or is that a hate crime?

(2)(0)

Anonymous

You can’t say that.

(5)(1)

Anonymous

I find that grossly offensive.

(4)(1)

Alison Saunders

I’m coming to get you!!!!!!

(0)(0)

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Word Inquisition

Trumpenkrieg needs to be blocked from LC again.
And what was Not Amused her crime?
Did she receive the death penalty?
Hail LC!

(0)(1)

Corbyn. Symphathiser

Was Not Amused banned? How would you even be able to do that – you can leave comments anonymously. Are you sure NA isn’t just… not posting?

Excuse my not being aware of this, I have been on holiday.

(0)(3)

Anonymous

What a load of waffle that actually changes very little.

As stated by one of the commentators, maybe the CPS should get their current caseload in order before seeking to further burden itself.

(4)(1)

Mr. Bean.

And what about the purge against Vegetables?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

It makes sense for the CPS to increase their focus on these prosecutions. From an evidence point of view, they are simple and also cheap to prosecute compared to crimes like burglary.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Are you suggesting that the CPS are only seeking quick and simple wins in order to bolster their statistics?

(0)(0)

Ralph Musgrave

Try reporting a hate crime to the police: it’s like trying to find a real person to talk to on the phone at a bank.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Why does this feel like domestic abuse all over again. Those of us working in the magistrates’ courts are endlessly having to deal with domestic nonsense. 70% of the cases are guff, that would never have been prosecuted but for the CPS’s domestic abuse policy. Believe it or not, the evidential test is a good one. Apply it in each case and the right results will follow.

(4)(1)

Iami Rastafari of Counsel

What about LC ban on Rastafarians?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Massive document that just needs to say…

Be sympathetic
Be quick
Believe the victim
Get a prosecution

Also the trans language is terrible, all out of date!

(1)(0)

Anonymous

This is an open post to Alison Saunders:

Religion is a set of beliefs, chosen by individuals to hold.

Why can’t I feel hostility towards some of those beliefs, in exactly the same way as I feel hostility towards other beliefs?

When exactly do you permit me to hate anything?

(3)(0)

Mr Cadbury

And the LC hate campaign against fruit and nuts?

(0)(0)

Nurse Dablitz

Religion on LC Doc.

(0)(0)

Doc. Ludvig Friedrich Von Lowenstein

Get some pop corn nurse

(0)(0)

Sheikh Nazi Al Haqqani

Allah has taught us to hate what he hates and love what he hates

(0)(4)

Sheikh Nazim Al Haqqani

Sorry. Love what he loves.

(0)(2)

Anonymous

So, according to your scriptures that’s gays, unbelievers, Jews and Christians?

But having a nine year old wife is OK?

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Although that may be true, it’s grossly offensive for you to say that.

Expect a knock at the door.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Anonymous, I am genuinely curious – how is what the other Anonymous (which you say may be true) in any way “grossly offensive”?

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Because in pointing out what we in the West percieve to be faults in their religious doctrines, there is a risk that we may stir up hatred against Muslims by pointing them out.

Because people may be tempted to use the fact that the Prophet Mohammed has sex with his nine year old wife Aisha as a ruse to say that Muslims support paedophilia.

Also, it is grossly offensive to Muslims for their Prophet to be seen or referred to in such terms even though by contemporary Western standards that is what such a relationship may be seen as.

In public discourse, some things are best left unsaid, even if true, lest they cause extreme offence and break the law.

Anonymous

Your first two paragraphs: where’s the gross offensiveness?
Your third paragraph: the original poster asked a question concerning having a nine year old wife. Again, where is the gross offensiveness in the question? The answer is either yes or no, backed up with supporting argument. The question cannot be classed as offensive.
Your fourth paragraph: let’s say I find what you have written grossly offensive. There. Now, with what criteria exactly do you delete your post?

Anonymous

You might have an opponent in Court who is fat and smells.

It might be true, but it would be grossly offensive to point it out to them in public.

Period.

Anonymous

When is something said/written, that is not what someone would like to hear, not offensive, in your opinion?

Anonymous

Use your common sense.

Anonymous

Anonymous: you have been asked your opinion on a matter. “Use your common sense” is an illogical reply to this.

Do you have an opinion you are able to articulate, or are you unable?

Anonymous

Yep, as we all know they are: totally unable.

Ciaran Goggins

So – Bahar Mustafa “Kill all white men” is legal but stating that there are false rape claims is illegal?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

To the poster who said “use your common sense”- do you not realise how grossly offensive that is?

It implies a homogenous culture that excludes and stamps on all minority views. What might be “common sense” in one culture might not be in another.

You need to revise your views and your language before it gets you into trouble.

(2)(0)

Comments are closed.