Allegations of hate incidents should be wiped from an individual’s record if no crime is found to have been committed, the Home Secretary told police chiefs as she asked for a review of the policy.
Priti Patel has asked the College of Policing to look into procedures regarding ‘non-crime hate incidents’, The Sunday Telegraph reported.
Non-crime hate incidents involve reports of ‘hostility towards religion, race or transgender identity’ that are not classed as a crime.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has asked for a review into the policy on non-crime hate incidents
Name-calling between students in a lesson that is not deemed a hate crime could instead be recorded a ‘non-crime’ incident, according to guidance issued by policing chiefs last year.
Even if police find no evidence that a crime has been committed, if anyone believes the incident was motivated by hate then officers are obliged to make a record.
These records, which stay on the system for six years, can show up on enhanced DBS checks.
And they could ultimately jeopardise a person’s career, even though the individual was not found guilty of, or even charged with, a hate crime.
More than 120,000 people had non-crime hate incidents recorded against them last year
Critics of the policy, which was introduced in College of Policing guidance last year, have highlighed the impact on people’s freedom of speech, as well as the use of police resources in pursuing such allegations.
A Home Office source said: ‘These so-called ‘non-crime hate incidents’ have a chilling effect on free speech and potentially stop people expressing views legally and legitimately. If people are found to have done nothing wrong the police shouldn’t punish them.’
What is a non-crime hate incident?
The College of Policing – the police’s professional body – say that not every reported hate crime incident is a crime.
But they say reported incidents should be to establish if an incident is a hate crime or a non-crime hate incident.
If police cannot find evidence of a crime, but if a person or any other person perceives that a person’s actions were motivated wholly or partly by hostility, then the College of Policing say the incident should be recorded as a non-crime hate incident.
The college accepts there may be an ‘overlap’ between a perceived non-crime hate incident and the legitimate right to free speech.
The scheme, introduced in 2014 following recommendations by the independent Macpherson Inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, includes a system of police reporting.
Police say the system is primarily to help preventive activity can take place, and to monitor potential community tensions.
But the reporting system has proved controversial – because these reports can be found on the system for up to six years through an enhanced DBS check.
This can potentially put a person’s career in jeopardy, even though they have not been charged or found guilty of a crime.
According to the College of Policing, the incidents will only show up on an enhanced DBS check if it is relevant to the job and is approved by a chief officer.
Assistant Chief Constable Iain Raphael, from the College of Policing, told the Telegraph: ‘Under separate Home Office rules, chief officers must also consider allowing someone the opportunity to reply before information is disclosed, and it should not be disclosed if it is trivial, simply demonstrates poor behaviour or relates merely to an individual’s lifestyle.’
Earlier this year it was revealed how police have recorded non-crime hate incidents against more than 120,000 people – 2,000 of which were against children.
Tom Hunt, Member of Parliament for Ipswich, previously told MailOnline: ‘I think the whole thing is scandalous and I think that it makes a mockery of the system.
‘If you are going to start registering incidents next to people’s names then you need to be sure that you have reasonable evidence that shows they are guilty.
‘I also think it could have a chilling impact on free speech if a young person or an adult feels afraid to speak out.
‘Because if a left-wing activist decides to take them to the police accusing them of hate – even though they haven’t done that – that alone means it could go down on their record.’
He added: ‘I think it needs to change.’
Meanwhile The Free Speech Union also criticsed the the policy. Toby Young, General Secretary of the FSU, said: ‘Non-Crime Hate Incidents are an invention of the College of Policing, an unelected body.
‘They have never been approved by Parliament, there is no legal threshold or independent evidentiary test applied to them and members of the public have no right of appeal against them.
‘Indeed, a member of the public can have a Non-Crime Hate Incident recorded against their name without ever being informed of the fact.
‘In some cases, NCHIs are recorded against a person’s name without their knowledge and are only picked up years later when an employer carries out a background check on them.
‘This means that a young person training to be an NHS nurse or teacher could be turned down for a job because of a joke they made in the playground as a 12 year-old.’
Last month, Lady Justice Simler raised the point of ‘legitimate public debate’ in cases where feminist academics questioned whether trans women were women.
Her comments came during the case of former police officer Harry Miller, who had a hate incident placed on his record after he posted a number of tweets about transgender issues.
His posts were reported to the police as being allegedly transphobic.
Mr Miller, a former police officer and founder of Fair Cop argued that the guidance was unlawful and stopped freedom of expression.
However senior officers have insisted it helps them ‘measure tensions effectively and to prevent serious hostility and violence’.
Paul Gianassi, the hate crime adviser for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, also argued that non-crime hate incidents may be the starting point in an escalating process of ‘dehumanisation and ultimately murder’.
Non-crime hate incident reports were introduced in 2014 following recommendations by the independent Macpherson Inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence.
Asst Chief Constable Iain Raphael, of the College of Policing, said the guidance would be reviewed, but this would need to be balanced against those it is intended to help protect.
He added: ‘Hate crime can have serious consequences and it is vital the police have the right tools to help them protect the public.’
The College of Policing argues non-crime hate incidents can be the pre-cursor for more serious crime, including violence and murder, but critics say the policy has gone too far