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PCC backs calls for hate crime online abuse to be treated more seriously
Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway has backed a national call for hate crime abuse on social media to be treated as a crime – as it would be if said face to face.

The national call has been led by the Crown Prosecution Service which has revised its guidance for prosecutors.  It says the impact of tweeting abuse can be as “equally devastating” as shouting it. 

“It is appalling that some people feel, when they get behind a computer screen, that they can deliver vile, abusive comments about a person’s race, religion, sexuality or physical appearance which, if said to the victim directly, would constitute hate crime,” said Commissioner Holloway.

“There is real cowardice in mounting a hate crime campaign against an individual or group just because it can be done anonymously. Bedfordshire Police takes hate crime incredibly seriously, which is why it has its own hate crime lead and a success rate in prosecutions in over 80%,” added the Commissioner. 

Bedfordshire Police’s Hate Crime lead, Sergeant James Hart, has been leading a team dedicated to supporting victims of hate crime and working with local groups to tackle abuse online. 

“It is really concerning to see how much hate crime has increased over the years, in particular online hate speech. Unfortunately, it is something that a lot of people will experience in their lifetime, as social media has become part of everyday life.

“The abuse is still as devastating and has just as much of a lasting impact online as it would in person. We need to take away the power that those sending abuse feel when hiding behind a computer. The only way to do that is to treat it seriously and ensure those responsible are prosecuted,” said Sgt Hart.

“It’s necessary for Bedfordshire Police to support the community in relation to hate crime. For example, reports of Islamophobia against individuals who had no part whatsoever in the Manchester and London attacks, of this year, rose in the aftermath of these events. 

“There is absolute ignorance blaming an entire community for the actions of a radical minority with no connection whatsoever to them,” added the PCC.