UK.gov to treat online abuse as seriously as IRL hate crime

Lawrence Kim
August 21, 2017

Online hate crimes should be treated as seriously as offences in person according to new guidance for prosecutors in England and Wales.

It also said that victims of biphobic hate crime, aimed at bisexual people, have different needs and experiences compared to those suffering anti-gay and transphobic offences.

On online hate crime, the CPS says prosecutors must recognise that modern communications provide opportunities for hate crimes - and the cases should be pursued with the same "robust and proactive approach used with offline offending".

It adds that the areas it targets are those in the United Kingdom who hold extreme views on disability, race, religion, sexual orientation, or transgender identity.

Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said: "Hate crime has a corrosive effect on our society and that is why it is a priority area for the CPS".

"That is, the desire to undermine and instil fear in those they target, both individually and collectively", she said, arguing that online hate speech could create an atmosphere in which real-life hate crimes increased.

Spikes in hate crimes were recorded in the wake of the 2016 European Union referendum and around the terror attacks earlier this year.

The new legal guidance and accompanying CPS public statements guide prosecutors deciding whether to charge suspects of crimes motivated by racial, sexual or religious hatred or because the victim was disabled. "They also let victims and witnesses know what they should expect from us".

My message to victims is that the CPS, police and others in the criminal justice system are ready to listen and, where we have the evidence, to hold those committing hate crimes to account.

"Whether shouted in their face on the street, daubed on their wall or tweeted into their living room, the impact of hateful abuse on a victim can be equally devastating", wrote Saunders.

She hopes the new guidelines will encourage people to report hate crimes, with the "knowledge they'll be taken seriously and given the support they need".

However, the Campaign Against Antisemitism said its own survey showed that 52% of British Jews believe that prosecutors were not doing enough to combat anti-Semitism, with only 39% of British Jews confident that hate crime perpetrators would be taken to court.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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