Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service to Curb Online Hate Crime Perpetuation
Online hate crimes will be taken on more vigorously by British prosecutors, according to the updated guidelines issued by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on Monday.
Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecution, announced that the treatment to hate crimes done and perpetuated online will be “with the same robust and proactive approach used with offline offending.”
The aforementioned updated guideline is a response to a growing number of crimes committed online, including attacks on the basis of race, religion, disability, gender orientation, et cetera. The change is expected to cause a huge increase in the number of people prosecuted for prejudiced attacks done on social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, which have been considered as a new channel used by people to commit socially unacceptable behaviors.
“It will also remind the trolling brigade that there are real consequences for hitting the button,” Saunders added after emphasizing that there would be no difference in the treatment of online and offline offenses since hate crimes “can be perpetrated online or offline, or there can be a pattern of behavior that includes both.”
CPS also stated that prosecutors completed over 15,000 hate crimes between the years 2015 and 2016. This figure has been the highest number ever recorded for the said crime.
A huge increase in the reports has been recorded in June 2016, the same period when the United Kingdom withdrew from the European Union; a historic event which is more popularly tagged as the “Brexit.” The reports showed a tremendous surge of 41 percent to the number of crimes committed in the month after Brexit.
According to the issued document, platforms have a changing nature, thus the prosecutors should understand this nature while being alert in identifying “originators,” and “amplifiers or disseminators.”
Community groups that monitor anti-Semitic and Islamophobic abuses also reported a significant number of crimes committed online.
“Those who think that street-based hate crimes should have precedent over online ones should realize there is no competition in getting access to justice,” Fiyaz Mughal said, welcoming the changes the CPS has taken. Fiyaz Mughal is the founder of the campaign group called “Tell Mama,” which measures Islamophobia in Britain.
In an interview, Paul Twocock, director of campaign at Stonewall, asserted that discrimination happens all the time in reality for the majority of people in the LGBT community wherever they are. He also added that hate crimes against LGBT people continue to happen in spite of the developments made, and emphasized that “this is unacceptable.”
“We will continue to support the CPS, as we work towards a society in all LGBT people can be accepted without exception,” Twocock said.
However, Stephen Silverman, director of investigations at the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism (CAA), described the manner in which the CPS deals with anti-Semitic crimes as lacking in transparency. Silverman described the rise in such crimes as “relentless” and was concerned about the low prosecution rate for offenses against Jews in spite of the said rise.
Silverman also explained that, based on a survey the CAA conducted, the Jewish community has lost its confidence “in the will of the justice system to protect it.”
“Unless the CPS changes its stance towards crimes committed against Jews, those who commit them will be emboldened to continue offending and Britain's Jewish population will continue to worry that it does not have a long-term future in this country,” he asserted.
Meanwhile, the CPS expects the victims of the said online hate crimes to come forward, as the service suggested that many abuses happen without being reported by the victims.
Saunders described the effects of the hate crimes as “corrosive,” and added that it could affect whole communities, while “forcing people to change their way of life and live in fear.”
“I hope that, along with this week’s campaign, they will give people the confidence to come forward and report hate crime, in the knowledge that they will be taken seriously and given the support they need,” Saunders stated.