Children are warned old tweets could ruin their lives

6th April, 2021 4:58 pm

Children have been warned that old tweets and online comments could harm their career prospects, amid reports police are recording thousands of ‘non-crime hate incidents’.

Figures uncovered by the Daily Telegraph reveal police have recorded more than 2,000 such incidents against those aged 16 and under in the last seven years.

Non-crime hate incidents involve reports of ‘hostility towards religion, race or transgender identity’ that are not classed as a crime.

Name-calling between students in a lesson that is not deemed a hate crime could instead be recorded a ‘non-crime’ incident, according to guidance issued by policing chiefs last year.

Even if police find no evidence that a crime has been committed, if anyone believes the incident was motivated by hate then officers are obliged to make a record.

These records, which stay on the system for six years, can show up on enhanced DBS checks.

And they could ultimately jeopardise a person’s career, even though the individual was not found guilty of, or even charged with, a hate crime.

Today Conservative MP Sir John Hayes told the Telegraph that the figures showed a ‘disturbing trend’, while fellow MP Tom Hunt told MailOnline the rules ‘need to change’.

Sir John said: ‘I think it is a really unfortunate, dangerous road for the police to go down.

‘Nobody should be condemned for every quip, joke or comment they have made through their young or adult lives.’

The former security minister said he accepted the need to collect information with the aim of launching a prosecution, but said the non-crime hate incident system was ‘incompatible with a free society’.

Meanwhile, Tom Hunt, Member of Parliament for Ipswich, told MailOnline: ‘I think the whole thing is scandalous and I think that it makes a mockery of the system.

‘If you are going to start registering incidents next to people’s names then you need to be sure that you have reasonable evidence that shows they are guilty.

‘I also think it could have a chilling impact on free speech if a young person or an adult feels afraid to speak out.

‘Because if a left-wing activist decides to take them to the police accusing them of hate – even though they haven’t done that – that alone means it could go down on their record.’

He added: ‘I think it needs to change.’

Civil liberties group Big Brother Watch also labelled the system ‘overbearing’.

Mark Johnson told MailOnline: ‘Adding children’s names to a blacklist because they have posted distasteful views on social media is disproportionate and overbearing.

‘The police’s recording of non-crime hate incidents in this way threatens to trash the prospects of some young people, whose details are added to official police files even though they have not broken the law.’

Earlier this year it was revealed how police have recorded non-crime hate incidents against more than 120,000 people – 2,000 of which were against children.

Critics say the controversial practice of logging ‘non-crime hate incidents’, even after officers decided what was said or posted online did not break any laws, has a ‘chilling effect on free speech’.

However senior officers have insisted it helps them ‘measure tensions effectively and to prevent serious hostility and violence’.

Paul Gianassi, the hate crime adviser for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, also argued that non-crime hate incidents may be the starting point in an escalating process of ‘dehumanisation and ultimately murder’.

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

But critics say their use has gone well beyond what was intended and diverts officers from tackling other priorities such as violent crime.

Reports of non-crime hate incidents can show up in criminal record checks for six years, yet there are no grounds to appeal against them.

According to the College of Policing, the incidents will only show up on an enhanced DBS check if it is relevant to the job and is approved by a chief officer.

Assistant Chief Constable Iain Raphael, from the College of Policing, told the Telegraph: ‘Under separate Home Office rules, chief officers must also consider allowing someone the opportunity to reply before information is disclosed, and it should not be disclosed if it is trivial, simply demonstrates poor behaviour or relates merely to an individual’s lifestyle.’

It comes as it was last month announced misogyny will now be recorded as a hate crime by police in the wake of the death of Sarah Everard.

Police forces will be asked to record and identify any crimes of violence, including stalking and sexual offences, where the victim believed it to have been motivated by ‘hostility based on their sex’, a Home Office minister said.

Baroness Williams of Trafford added this would be done on an ‘experimental basis’ from the autumn and it could inform longer-term decisions once the Law Commission’s review of hate crime was complete.

Hours before the announcement, prime minister Boris Johnson called for a change in cultural attitudes towards women’s safety.

The move came after a call by Labour’s Baroness Kennedy of Cradley, who warned of an ‘epidemic of violence’ against women and girls.

Gathering evidence about the prevalence of hostility towards women and girls was crucial to recognising connections, according to Lady Kennedy.

Speaking as the Lords considered amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill, Lady Kennedy added: ‘If we are not recording crime targeted at women, how can we effectively address violence against women and girls and the police’s response to it?’

Reacting to the decision, Fawcett Society chief executive Felicia Willow said: ‘We are delighted that this Government has accepted that misogyny should be treated as a hate crime.

‘Fawcett’s campaign showed there was overwhelming public support for this.

‘It’s essential that women have the confidence to report crimes and that they are taken seriously when they do.

‘This is a major step forward in changing how we understand, address and prevent violence against women – and one that we hope will help change attitudes towards women.’

Source: Daily Mail / MailOnline

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