UK Home Secretary Priti Patel has told police leaders that individuals who have been accused of so-called non-crime hate incidents should have the allegation expunged from their record if no crime was found to have been committed.
Presently, authorities in the United Kingdom maintain records of so-called “non-crime hate incidents” in criminal databases, allowing for the non-offenses to be found during background checks. This means that even if a police investigation finds that no offense has been committed, the accused individual will still have a ‘hate incident’ on their police record, which in turn can lead to a host of problems.
Under the country’s current laws, which the home secretary has asked officials at the College of Policing to review, there is no appeal process or way to have these incidents removed from one’s record. Furthermore, once an alleged hate incident is recorded — which is mandatory — police have no way to dismiss the claim.
With the current system in place, it is easy to see how an individual’s career or job prospects can be ruined, even if they haven’t been found guilty or charged with a hate crime. The law impacts society in other ways as well.
According to a report from The Sunday Telegraph, a source inside the UK’s Home Office 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.”
In 2021, it was revealed that police forces recorded non-hate incidents involving more than 120,000 individuals over the years.
Harry Miller, a former-police officer who was investigated by authorities for allegedly sharing “transphobic” content online, has sued the Humberside police force in Northern England on grounds of freedom of speech. After being let go from the police force, Miller founded an organization called Fair Cop — a group which campaigns to reform the College of Policing’s hate incident guidelines. Miller has welcomed Patel’s intervention, referring to it as “a step in the right direction”.
“The government should ditch the recording of non-hate crime incidents as they are fundamentally wrong and remove the presumption of innocence,” Miller told The Times.
“The College of Policing Hate Crimes Guidance is an assault on freedom. It requires the police to remove the presumption of innocence and generate records without the need for evidence, let alone proof.
It is also entirely useless. Of the 120,000 non-criminal hate incidents recorded by the police since 2014, the police cannot point to a single actual crime being prevented as a result.”
Sarah Phillimore, the co-founder of Fair Cop, has echoed Miller’s sentiment, saying: “People should be allowed to speak about important issues, such as women’s rights, without fear of being criminalized by malicious or overly-sensitive people.”
“I very much hope this marks the beginning of the end for the well-intentioned but deeply flawed hate crimes guidance.”
Iain Raphael, the assistant chief constable of the College of Policing, has defended the current laws regarding non-crime hate incidents, insisting that authorities would be incapable of collecting information to “monitor tensions within a community” without them.
“Freedom of speech is an essential part of our democracy. The guidance helps police balance the rights and needs of people complaining of non-criminal hate incidents without impinging on freedom of expression. Non-crime hate incidents can be precursors to subsequent violent crime,” Raphael said.
A petition to repeal the law so far has garnered more than 13,000 signatures, well over the 10,000 needed to force the government to debate the issue.