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Online crimes should be taken as seriously as face-to-face crimes

Online crimes should be taken as seriously as face-to-face crimes

Categories: Latest News

Friday August 25 2017

The Crown Prosecution Service has stated that the impact of tweeting abuse can be “equally devastating” as verbally attacking someone.

Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders claimed that online abuse can cause a rise of “dangerous hostility”.

A hate crime includes a motive which is encouraged by “hostility or prejudice”, including racism, sexism or Islamophobia.

Handling internet trolls:

Writing in The Guardian, Ms Saunders revealed that recent events in the US- where white nationalists clashed with counter-protesters in Charlottesville- displayed the result of online abuse.

“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,” she reported.

She claimed that the internet and social media has provided “new platforms” for abuse to occur.

In December 2014 Scotland’s Crown Office released similar guidelines stating “if it would be illegal to say it on the street, it is illegal to say it online”.

Labour councillor Seyi Akiwowo also was the victim of this abuse whilst enduring gender-based and racist slurs in February 2017. She was reportedly called the N word and “a monkey”.

She continued on BBC Radio London stating: “They’re not just words. They actually echo the behaviour we don’t tolerate in society so we shouldn’t start thinking it’s OK to say on any platform, on social media and the internet.

“There needs to be a big campaign about proper conduct online…[and] about what you can do as a witness.

“You wouldn’t be a bystander to a crime in society. If we saw someone being mugged or being abused we wouldn’t stand back we would try and intervene in some way.”

CPS has stated that it has outlined more clearly what victims and witnesses should expect to see from the law.

Cases should be handled with the same “robust and proactive approach used with offline offending”.

However, exceptions should be made for children who had no intention of causing potential harm from something they posted online relating to a potential hate crime.

The new guidance especially points out that hate crime can be acknowledged as a criminal offence “which is perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice”.

The problem arises where trying to decipher whether they are linked to hate crimes or are simply just offensive words.

Other online abuse can equate to harassment or the crime of inciting hatred.

Campaigners claim that reliance on existing guidance has been interpreted incorrectly, leaving victims to be let down.

Other campaign group’s state if the CPS is serious about making a difference there needs to be more of a change in guidance and will.

According to the latest figures, the CPS successfully prosecuted more than 15,000 hate crime incidents in 2015-16 – the highest number ever. A third of those convicted saw their sentence increased because of the hate crime element of the offence – also a record.

However, according to the BBC in the same year, the number of cases which were referred to prosecutors by police declined by almost 10%.

Nik Noone, chief executive of Galop, a charity that campaigns against anti-LGBT violence and hate crime, claimed its own research suggested that victims felt uncomfortable reporting hate crimes to police.

“The threshold for prosecuting online hate crime is very high, and the investigative process is often too slow and cumbersome to respond to the fast-moving online world,” she said.

 

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