Well done to Sara Thornton, a senior police officer who has warned against extending the definition of a ‘hate crime’ to include misogyny, misandry and ageism. Yesterday, she told a conference of the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners that they should be allowed to focus on ‘core’ crimes like burglary, rather than being forced to increase the already ridiculous amount of time they spend investigating hate crimes. In 2016, British police detained and questioned 3,300 people for making ‘offensive’ comments on social media – roughly nine arrests per day. Meanwhile, West Yorkshire Police, the fourth largest force in England, is failing to investigate 56 per cent of cases – and these aren’t minor crimes, but include things like theft, assault and burglary.
A ‘hate crime’ is any crime motivated by prejudice towards someone based on certain ‘protected’ characteristics. At present, those characteristics are race or ethnicity, religion or beliefs, sexual orientation, disability, and transgender identity, but the Law Commission is currently reviewing whether to add to them. Diane Abbott told police leaders this morning that she’s in favour of making misogyny a hate crime, although it won’t surprise anyone to learn that Labour’s shadow home secretary has misunderstood what a hate crime is. Merely harbouring hostility towards someone in one of the protected categories is not, by itself, a ‘hate crime’, so adding ‘gender’ to that list won’t make ‘misogyny’ a hate crime. In addition, the accused would have to commit an actual crime, such as sending an unsolicited, malicious email. In the words of the criminal justice system, a hate crime is an ‘aggravated offence’ it is not an offence in its own right. Then again, Abbott may actually want to bring forward a bill proposing that merely having a thought that she disapproves of should be classed as a ‘hate crime’. (To read more, click here.)