CPS release new guidance
Online hate crimes should be treated as seriously as abuse committed face-to-face the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has said.
The CPS released a statement today outlining new guidance on how they will prosecute hate crime and support victims in England and Wales and sets out how prosecutors should make charging decisions and handle these cases in court.
They said they recognize the growth of hate crime perpetrated using social media in particular and are committed to treating online crime as seriously as offline offences, while also taking into account the potential impact on the wider community as well as the victim.
The guidance also includes offences against bisexual people for the first time.
The CPS said the policy will acknowledge that victims of biphobic hate crime have different experiences and needs to victims of homophobic and transphobic offences.
Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said: “Hate crime has a corrosive effect on our society and that is why it is a priority area for the CPS. It can affect entire communities, forcing people to change their way of life and live in fear.
“These documents take account of the current breadth and context of offending to provide prosecutors with the best possible chance of achieving justice for victims. They also let victims and witnesses know what they should expect from us.
Writing in the Guardian Saunders said a crackdown on online abuse is needed, especially in the wake of recent events seen in Charlottesville. She said the events, that left one person dead, showed the sort of extremist hate online abuse can lead to.
She wrote: “Left unchallenged, even low-level offending can subsequently fuel the kind of dangerous hostility that has been plastered across our media in recent days. That is why countering it is a priority for the CPS.”
“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 added.
The CPS completed 15,442 hate crime prosecutions in 2015/16, the highest number ever.
The CPS is marking the publication of the documents with the launch of a social media campaign – #HateCrimeMatters – to encourage people to come forward and report hate crime incidents.