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Is hate always a crime? The police shouldn't blindly trust self-appointed victims

Did the creators of this banner deserve to be investigated by the police? Credit: Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

Did the creators of this banner deserve to be investigated by the police? Credit: Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images


November 22, 2021   6 mins

What gives the British police their power? The answer has always been us, the public. The first of the “general instructions” issued to recruits of the new Metropolitan Police service in 1829 was “to prevent crime and disorder.” But the second was “to recognise always that the power of police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect”.

That’s why the British police model is often referred to as one of “policing by consent”. The service is run with the blessing and co-operation of the public, rather than as an arm of the state. We know that the police regularly walk into situations which most of us would instinctively avoid, often showing great courage in difficult situations. A YouGov poll in October suggested that the police in general are positively viewed by the public, with 65% saying they trust them and 31% saying they don’t. But recent scandals have taken a toll on the specific reputation of one force in particular: only 33% of the British public say that they trust the Metropolitan police (although the figure is higher among Londoners, at 57%).

The Met’s standing has been damaged by Sarah Everard’s abduction and murder by Met officer Wayne Couzens, and the disgraceful conduct of two Met officers at the scene of the 2020 murders of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman. Much has been said about the need to root out so-called “bad apples” in the force, along with tackling persistent pockets of misogyny and racism. But our model of policing by consent faces another challenge. Recently, the police have been taking on powers that the bulk of the British public never asked for them to have.

What the public wants from the police — as a 2020 report from the Police Foundation think tank suggests — is pretty much what you’d expect: more visible policing on the street, and a focus on “sexual crime, violent crime, investigating serious crime, responding quickly to calls for help, tackling terrorism and taking action on organised crime”. In other words, we want the greatest energy focused on the crimes with the highest potential to devastate lives.

Of course, as the Strategic Review of Policing in England and Wales — set up to shape a “long term strategic direction for the police service” — acknowledges, a lot of crime has migrated from the streets to electronic highways. Fraud and computer misuse now make up 44% of all crime in England and Wales. The number of police officers in England and Wales, however, fell by 20,000 between 2010 and 2019. The government has promised 20,000 additional police officers by 2023, more than half of whom have now been recruited. Ideally, this should contribute to a more efficient police force with an enhanced presence on the streets. Add in more rigorous safeguards against bias and corruption, promised in the aftermath of this reputationally disastrous year, and it doesn’t seem unreasonable to hope for a new, improved force.

But there’s a problem: recent, fuzzily-framed powers are taking our police in a direction that the public — and many officers — clearly do not want. Instead of patrolling the pavements, officers are increasingly encouraged to patrol the finer nuances of legitimate public debate. At a recent football match, Crystal Palace fans unveiled a large banner criticising the Saudi-backed takeover of Newcastle United. It featured a bearded character clearly depicting the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, along with a trenchant critique of Saudi Arabia’s shocking record on human rights. Croydon police promptly tweeted that they had “received a report of an offensive banner displayed by Crystal Palace fans” warning that “any allegations of racist abuse will be taken very seriously.” A later tweet from them thankfully confirmed that “no offences have been committed”, something which most sane people could have recognised with one glance.

The argument over trans rights and women’s rights, too, has triggered lengthier but similarly doomed police investigations. One such case culminated in the bizarre 2019 prosecution of Miranda Yardley, a transsexual, for allegedly committing a transphobic hate crime online. The police investigation had been prompted by complaints against Yardley from a trans rights activist (who was not herself trans); the judge threw the case out after one day, awarding costs to the defendant. More recently, “gender-critical” feminist Marion Millar was charged under the Malicious Communications Act for potential hate crime. One of her offending tweets was reportedly a picture of a suffragette ribbon, which a complainant had argued was a noose. All charges were ultimately dropped. In both cases, the lengthy process to which the defendants were subjected was a punishment in itself.

Many of these threats to investigate, or unsuccessful charges, make the case that a “hate” crime has been committed — that is, an offence motivated by the plaintiff’s disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. (Ordinary crimes, it seems, take an equal opportunities approach.) Hate crime carries an enhanced sentence, but at least — since it involves an actual crime — it is bound by certain legal definitions.

Hate crime’s little brother is a sub-category called “non-crime hate incidents,” which can’t be prosecuted. For someone on the wrong end of an accusation, however, it can be very uncomfortable. Although the public collectively consents to the police holding power, we have little say as individuals in how that power is used over us. Police activity can be a factor in us losing our livelihoods or our liberty. And, despite not being a crime, a “non-crime hate incident” can go on your record and potentially show up on enhanced DBS checks. It might close off certain job opportunities. To better understand the offence, I turned to the West Yorkshire police website, where the Hate Crime Co-ordinator PC Emma Harrison explains it via video:

“A hate incident can be any incident that the victim or any other person perceives to have happened to a person as a result of their faith, their race, their sexual orientation, their disability. It doesn’t have to be a criminal offence. As the definition says it can be any incident, so it can be perhaps just the way that somebody looks at you or it might be something that somebody says to you that might upset you. It literally can be anything at all that you feel is there as a result of something about you, something very personal to you, it might be the colour of your skin, it might be a disability that you have, and it doesn’t even need to be a disability that can be seen.”

Around 120,000 such offences were recorded between 2014, when the College of Policing brought in the “non-crime hate incident” guidance, and 2019. Of course, it is often sensible for police to keep records of especially upsetting or threatening behaviour that nevertheless misses the threshold for criminal prosecution. But the net here is cast extremely wide, and could easily include a legitimate personal opinion that someone else simply doesn’t like. The “non-crime hate incident” exists entirely in the perception of the allegedly aggrieved party.

It seems chilling that “any incident” — including “perhaps just the way that somebody looks at you” — can potentially land an individual with a police record, not least because “looks” are frequently open to misinterpretation. If you are deemed the perpetrator, there is currently no evidential means by which you can overturn the ruling, save for an expensive and drawn-out judicial review. As the former director of public prosecutions, Ken Macdonald, wrote recently: “This power has real world consequences. We need hardly imagine what an HR manager would make of a job applicant with a police history of hate.”

A world in which self-described victims cannot be challenge is a dangerous one. The police’s desire to semaphore its wholehearted belief in the testimony of alleged victims, before investigating any actual evidence, was a key factor in the Met’s catastrophic Operation Midland. For nearly a year and a half, they pursued a highly energetic investigation into an alleged VIP sex ring on the basis of luridly fabricated evidence from the fantasist and paedophile Carl Beech, anonymised as “Nick”. His allegations resulted in the baseless persecution of both a former Home Secretary, Lord Brittan, and a former Chief of the Defence Staff, Lord Bramall.

One of the glaring mistakes of that investigation occurred when one senior officer abandoned all rules of due process publicly to declare “Nick’s” allegations “credible and true”. They were both incredible and false. The assertion flew directly in the face of the eighth “general instruction” of British policing: that police should “refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.”

Leon Brittan died in 2015 without knowing his name had been cleared. The usual apologies were made by Dame Cressida Dick. And yet the same principle of “guilty if accused” has somehow been allowed to spread quietly in the thicket of “non-crime hate incidents.”

It is a tenet of our democracy that other people are allowed to say things with which we do not agree, and might even find offensive. The mission creep of the UK police force — which now risks effectively handing out police records to a growing pool of law-abiding citizens — is worrisome not only for the public at large, but also for the force itself. And it comes at a bad time: in what should be serious cause for concern, the October YouGov poll mentioned earlier also found that more people (48%) were now “unconfident” of the police’s ability to solve crime in their local area than were “confident” (43%).

If the general public sees more individuals being hounded and investigated for opinions which many of them may hold, while the conviction rate for high-harm offences such as knife crime and rape remains dismal, they may well conclude that the police service is no longer set up to serve the best interests of ordinary citizens.

That bodes ill for the co-operative model which has broadly served the UK well for so long. The best of police officers understand this instinctively, as did the “general instructions” from 1829, which saw much of this coming, in rule five, which says that the force should “seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion; but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law.”


Jenny McCartney is a journalist, commentator and author of the novel The Ghost Factory.

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Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago

“Hate” crimes (and worse, NON-crimes) should form no part of the law or of police activity. Quite apart from the fact that they are always cynical manipulations by the left and more often than not it’s the politicised police and CPS officials who are doing the hating, people are perfectly entitled to hate whoever they like. All that matters is that they don’t disciminate against them. The two are not the same thing.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago

Quite right.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago

Discrimination is a basic and necessary human trait.
We exercise it every time we choose one person, action or thing over another.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago

Indeed. There needs to be more discrimination. Not on the basis of skin colour but against bad actors.
As far as hate speech is concerned – particularly non-crime hate incidents – while I deplore the legislation the answer is to vigorously and repeatedly report hate speech by the left who are the most flagrant purveyors of hate.

Christopher Gelber
Christopher Gelber
2 years ago

Nearly … All that matters is that they don’t incite imminent violence or illegality, nor defame someone. Otherwise I agree.

Madeleine Jones
Madeleine Jones
2 years ago

I’ll make a provocative statement: people have the right to hate. When you get down to it, hatred is an emotion (or collection of them), and laws should not regulate them. Groups and individuals must know that not everyone will love, or accept them.
Is hatred desirable, or should be encouraged? Probably not. I used to feel an intense hatred towards those who hurt me, and sure, it dragged me down. But I still had that right to have those emotions. I don’t want a government or NGO to say what I can’t feel or express.
I am proudly blocked by Hope Not Hate on Twitter – who have such a childish outlook on politics and well, hate.

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago

To be blocked by such an odious and shameful outfit as Hope Not Hate is a badge of honour Madeleine, and means you are a fair minded individual who is willing to listen to what others have to say and who has the maturity and decency to allow others to have views that may not align with your own.

Karl Francis
Karl Francis
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

Fair play.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago

About six months ago an 86-year old woman responded to a tweet by tweeting that people were either male or female with nothing between. There was a complaint and she was visited by the police. It was recorded as a ‘hate incident’.
The original tweeter then came back with a comment like, “You are an old cow and you deserve to die soon”. She reported this to the police but no action was taken. It was not deemed to be a hate incident.

However, all this comes from the Home Office who issue priorities to the police. Hate crime has become trendy and Chief Constables compete to have the best figures. Promotions within the police forces may depend on the response to the challenge of hate crime. Obviously it is an easy option for the police.

Bill W
Bill W
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

The Police should have a much flatter rank structure. Same goes for the military.

Last edited 2 years ago by Bill W
Judy Englander
Judy Englander
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

The story you relate is so appalling – in fact, so evil – that at first I was lost for words. Now I have calmed down: this is not just; we speak so much of the justice system but very little about the small word at its heart – (being) just. It’s self-evidently not just to persecute anyone for an opinion that was considered true until yesterday, let alone an 86-year old; it’s self-evidently not just to then fail to similarly persecute her persecutor for elder abuse and wishing her death. Being just demands that if one is a ‘hate incident’ then so is the other.
The one virtue that OT prophets are united in crying out for, without exception, is justice because they saw being just as a divine commandment. Even if one is not a believer, being just is the bedrock of any good society.

Last edited 2 years ago by Judy Englander
Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

The article was lifted straight from The Daily Mail about 6 months ago. The newspaper said that the lady’s mistake was to tweet under her own name with her own photo, thus supplying ammunition for the attack. Of course, the attacker used a pseudonym.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

The lady’s mistake was to be 86 years old and probably still living in the days when it was safe to express a mainstream opinion using one’s own name.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

An appalling story. But to the policeman involved it chalked up a hate incident with little effort for the benefit of his superior at little risk of comeback as it didn’t actually destroy her life as at 86 she is unlikely to be looking for employment. In contrast to track down the really hateful message would have involved real police effort to track down a young caring woke who was just expressing justifiable outrage on behalf of an oppressed minority.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

I think it is appalling because a non crime hate incident has instantiated the paradigm of Impact Over Intent, an idea discussed on the EverydayFeminism dot com website. IMO, this concept is an ideological Trojan Horse.
1stly, it smuggles in a fundamental change to how we understand moral reasoning to work. For assessing guilt, intent is an essential component, but now that assessment relies on a shift from intent to impact.
2ndly, I think it smuggles in a fundamental change to the purpose of spoken communication, by changing who controls and determines the meaning of a person’s spoken expression. It does this by denying and removing the speaker’s agency and self autonomy for their thoughts and feelings and shifts their locus of control to the listener by only recognising their agency and self autonomy.
3rdly, by that recognition, it smuggles in the cognitive distortion of emotional reasoning, in which, contrary to the speaker’s intent, the listener’s feelings are justified by inferring and interpreting that the speaker committed hateful speech, based on assuming an uncharitable and negative position towards them.[As outlined in Haidt and Lukianoff: The Coddling of the American Mind]
So what sits at a Non Crime Hate Incident’s heart IMO, is an ideological paradigm that denies and removes a person’s agency to act as a sovereign individual human being – it unpersons them by the other facet of compelled speech – compelled meaning.

Last edited 2 years ago by michael stanwick
Judy Englander
Judy Englander
2 years ago

Superb analysis and summary. I couldn’t agree more.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

Thanks. It took quite a bit of thinking – very tiring. I was going to finish by saying those three conditions are the substance of ‘evil’.

Karl Francis
Karl Francis
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

Well said.

Gunner Myrtle
Gunner Myrtle
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

As a Canadian I find it depressing that the UK has sunk so low. Justin Trudeau is trying to get us there – but he is at least getting resistance. Our Supreme Court recently narrowed the ability of Human Rights tribunals to police speech.

Patrick 8888
Patrick 8888
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Well, easier…but don’t they themselves feel like fking berks knocking on someone’s door with these allegations and making an arrest based on such?
They’re playing the game, and maybe it is physically easier than jousting with thuggish violent actual villains..but do they actually believe in this nonsense ?

Matthew Powell
Matthew Powell
2 years ago

The police and the judiciary in this country are thoroughly politicised and can no longer be trusted. They pick and chose which laws to up hold, apply double standards based on the identity and politics of the perpetrators and have essentially invented the concept of non crime hate incidents, which they use to intimidate and harass political opponents.

They do not have my consent.

Last edited 2 years ago by Matthew Powell
Terry Needham
Terry Needham
2 years ago

Interesting read, but one quibble: There has been no “visible policing on the street” for decades.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

Bring back the Tens and the Hundreds…..,

“Under the Saxon organization of England, each county or shire comprised an indefinite number of hundreds, each hundred containing ten tithings, or groups of ten families of freeholders or frankpledges. The hundred was governed by a high constable, and had its own court; but its most remarkable feature was the corporate responsibility of the whole for the crimes or defaults of the individual members.”

They were the citizen police similar, to the Sheriff’s Posse.

Patrick 8888
Patrick 8888
1 year ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

I picture the the iconic two pairs of ankles in sensible shoes plodding down sidewalk in time, in THE BILL…but there was a fair bit of Woke even in that show.

Last edited 1 year ago by Patrick 8888
Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago

All categories of “hate crime” should be struck off the law books.
They have destroyed the impartiality of the police, eroded trust in the law, and made proper discourse impossible.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

It is a Political Crime. Also a Thought Crime.

dystopia is here…

Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
2 years ago

I do not hate individual transsexuals unless they behave in an aggressive and threatening manner towards me. I viscerally hate an ideology that tells young lesbians and autistic women that they are ‘really’ men and should have their healthy breasts cut off. I do not hate anyone because of a physical characteristic of any kind. I hate an ideology that tells a young working class man who has never had a proper job that he has ‘white privilege’ over a doctor or lawyer.
Being abusive to individuals because of a characteristic that makes them different from the mainstream is not acceptable. If that abuse turns to physical threats and violence, it should be treated as a crime. Disagreeing with the ideology that someone believes must never, ever be treated as a crime. The problem is that the police no longer seem to know the difference.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

A question I would like to put to Julie Bindel is whether she believes there is such a thing as heterophobia, and if so, whether she thinks it’s a crime.

I imagine her head would explode.

Aldo Maccione
Aldo Maccione
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

she’d sue you for “having an heterosexual laugh at her expense”.

Rod McLaughlin
Rod McLaughlin
2 years ago

“Of course, it is often sensible for police to keep records of especially upsetting or threatening behaviour that nevertheless misses the threshold for criminal prosecution.”

It’s surprising how many sentences which begin “of course” are not obviously true at all.

In general, I think this article is good, but too mild, and the author could learn from the more rigorous American system.

Frederick B
Frederick B
2 years ago

Nearly twelve years now of a “Conservative” (or Conservative led) government, the present version with a majority of eighty, yet STILL we have to suffer this indignity of so-called “hate crimes”!
Can we please have a conservative government in place of this bunch of centre-left wimps.

Last edited 2 years ago by Frederick B
D Glover
D Glover
2 years ago
Reply to  Frederick B

You can vote for Reclaim, Reform, or the tiny rump of UKIP.
None of them can win. So, the answer is ‘No you can’t’

David McDowell
David McDowell
2 years ago

Might have been better to have included references to how the police studiously ignored large scale rape of vulnerable white girls while taking bribes from their attackers.

Last edited 2 years ago by David McDowell
D Glover
D Glover
2 years ago
Reply to  David McDowell

The article does refer to Lords Bramall and Brittan.

Peter LR
Peter LR
2 years ago

‘Hate crimes’ and ‘hate speech’ have just become the endorsement of paranoia.

David Uzzaman
David Uzzaman
2 years ago

The period prior to the introduction of Robert Peels police force was characterised by widespread lawlessness because the earlier system of parish constables was inadequate. I think we are in a similar situation today. The police have essentially abandoned the streets whilst they pursue social engineering. A radical reform is necessary. Robert Peels strategy was a highly visible presence meant to reassure the law abiding and deter the criminals. Who honestly is reassured by the current police forces?

Patrick 8888
Patrick 8888
1 year ago
Reply to  David Uzzaman

Recently here in main street, I see three uniformed officers strolling…two males flanking one female. Both males are smaller physically than I am, and I am only medium height/weight if perhaps semi-athletic in build.
The female between them would be hard up to hit 1.5m mark…as well as beach-ball shaped.
The police ‘swarm’ Chelsea beach more than once because it has been taken over by a swarm of African-youth (primarily Sudanese)..many of the young Sudanese women even are as tall or taller than I am , let alone the males (and yes, btw, when these problems occur there is a significant female participation, it’s not just males by any means..mindless affrays with African women rivals affray with African males in incidence).
A large proportion of the police ‘swarm’ is always female, and these are giving away half a metre height to the Africans they are trying to..well, I guess the objective is to deter , awe, ie intimidate.
I wonder if they feel as useless and ridiculous as all of this looks.
BTW, when you question this grade of police recruitment to the Woke brigade..you might be told that apparently virtually street-useless pint-sized female police …….have…….”negotiating skills
Most of the ones I speak to do not strike me as likely to have even that.
In calibre, the ones in highway/traffic patrol bubble-gum machines strike me as checkout-chicks with guns and badges.

Last edited 1 year ago by Patrick 8888
Jacqueline Burns
Jacqueline Burns
2 years ago

The ony time they seem to not recognise a real hate crime is when people threaten, or actually do, kill Jewish people. That seems to be OK especially when the offender is of a certain persuasion.

Last edited 2 years ago by Jacqueline Burns
Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago

“The usual apologies were made by Dame Cressida Dyck.”
*The usual apologies were made by pantomime dame Troilus Peanis.

Rod McLaughlin
Rod McLaughlin
2 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Troilus… not Peanis, something else…

David Bell
David Bell
2 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Arrest the usual apologies!

Jean Nutley
Jean Nutley
2 years ago

“The service is run with the blessing and cooperation of the public rather than an arm of the state”
Believe that, and you will believe anything. We are living in a police state and have been for years,albeit a rather benign one.

Patrick 8888
Patrick 8888
1 year ago
Reply to  Jean Nutley

I’d say that it is both. An arm of the state with blessing /co-op of public..

Dave Mark
Dave Mark
2 years ago

“Moooom! That boy at school was meeaan to me!”
“What did he do to you, honey?”
“When we were on the playground, he looked at me!!! It was horrible!
“But he didn’t actually do anything?”
“Mom! You’re not listening! He looked at me!”

David Guest
David Guest
2 years ago

“
so it can be perhaps just the way that somebody looks at you
”
What a ridiculous state of affairs. What a complete waste of police forces’ time and tax payers’ money.

Samuel Gee
Samuel Gee
2 years ago

Ironically for the MPS and other forces, regular ocurrences of police officers reporting corruption or perhaps the excessive use of force or lying to secure a prosecution would actually help public trust.

Last edited 2 years ago by Samuel Gee
Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
2 years ago

Well, what do you expect when thoughts become crimes or subject to criminal
Investigation? The whole thing is ridiculous and stupid. Actions occur in the observable world and can be criminal, thoughts must be inferred and absentbaction do no harm to others; thoughts should not be criminal for those reasons.

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
2 years ago

As a child I was told that sticks and stones can break your bones but words can never hurt you. People who set out to offend were rude and being rude was their problem not yours. The best way to stop it was to not react to it and not take offence. The police should spend time stopping people from inciting others to cause damage but not on rudeness.

M. Gatt
M. Gatt
2 years ago

“My Lord! He looked at me” (Have I woken up in a Monty Python sketch?)

Vicha Unkow
Vicha Unkow
2 years ago

The Western Intellectuals have lost the Marbles and off their Rockers. I hear and see this in the USA, Canada, Australia, UK, and Europe. Self Mutilation of our Society.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago

“The usual apologies were made by Dame Cressida d**k.”
*The usual apologies were made by pantomime dame Troilus p***s.

Mike Wylde
Mike Wylde
2 years ago

You just need to remember, if you ever have any interaction with any members of the police force, or (even better) an MP insist that you are the victim of a hate non-crime just committed by that official, they looked at you in a hateful manner. If you say you’re the victim it must be believed as they can’t disprove it. Let’s see how many politicians and senior police officers it takes to get a non-criminal record before they change their minds!