Official guidelines insist a hate crime must be driven by “hostility”, but when contacted, many UK forces are unable to give a definition of what they mean by “hostility” in the context of hate crimes.
Breitbart London contacted dozens of forces to ask for their working definition of “hostility” and was referred on to the “dictionary definition” which includes “unfriendliness” and “dislike”.
Others referred Breitbart London to national bodies, including the College of Policing (CoP) and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which both admit there is an “absence of a precise legal definition of hostility”, with the latter also referring individual forces onto “dictionary definitions” for the purpose of investigating hate crimes.
UK police say hostility under hate crime legislation can include “unfriendliness”.
Well lock me the hell up, then. pic.twitter.com/WmeOddX0a0
— Raheem 🇺🇸 (@RaheemKassam) October 16, 2017
Dictionary definitions include a wide range of normal human behaviours and emotions, and images on social media suggest police officers are being told to look out for “unfriendliness” as a sign of a hate crime.
The CPS also mentions “ill-will, ill-feeling, spite, contempt, prejudice, unfriendliness, antagonism, resentment, and dislike” as examples of hostility that could be taken from a dictionary.
Many of these emotions are subjective, raising concerns police could target people inconsistently and unfairly, or due to misunderstandings and miscommunications. Others have pointed out “dislike” of immoral things is often honourable.
“Leicestershire Police refers to the College of Policing’s hate crime operational guidance. We refer to a standard English dictionary,” one force told Breitbart London.
Cheshire Police and Dorset Police forces told Breitbart London they follow “national guidance”, including the CPS, with the latter force insisting they “ensure officers and staff understand and are able to identify hate crime”.
Cheshire Police has previously warned users of social media not to post “offensive” comments or you “could face a large fine or up to two years in prison” and the Glasgow force has demanded people be “kind” online.
North Yorkshire Police simply sent Breitbart London the Citizen’s Advice and Home Office definition of a hate crime, as “any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice”.
The hostility can be directed at “disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity” but is not limited to these protected categories.
Essex Police directed Breitbart London to a section of a CoP manual, which explains that hostility for the purposes of recording a hate incident is anything that is “perceived” by the victim as hostility. It reads:
“For recording purposes, the perception of the victim of any other person is the defining factor in determining whether an incident is a hate crime, or in recognising the hostility element of a hate crime.
“The victim does not have to justify or provide evidence of their belief, and police officers and staff should not directly challenge this perception. Evidence of the hostility is not required for an incident to be recorded as a hate crime or hate incident.”
— BTP (@BTP) October 20, 2017
“In order to treat a crime as a hate crime for the purposes of investigation, there is no need for evidence to prove the aggravating element.”
Hate crimes are given harsher sentences than other crimes, and therefore it is possible that claims of “unfriendliness” with no supporting evidence could land someone in jail for a substantial amount of time.
Earlier this month, it was reported that between 2016 and 2017 there was the largest ever rise in reported “hate crimes”, yet the number of prosecutions actually fell.
The massive rise in reports but fall in prosecutions, recorded in the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Hate Crime Annual Report, could suggest some of the additional reports are less credible, meaning they do not make it to court.
Authorities are continuing their drive to encourage ever more “hate crime” reporting and prosecutions, announcing a national police unit dedicated to catching internet ‘trolls’ and a London police initiative in mosques just this month.