Police response to racial abuse and death threats online is leaving victims unsatisfied
A new report “#ReportHate: Combating Online Hatred” is calling for a national strategic unit to tackle the growing cases of online hate crime in England and Wales.
It was found that police forces lack the capability to properly deal with reports of directed racial abuse and even death threats online.
The report performed a targeted survey of over 200 purported victims of online hate crime and found that only 16% contacted the police.
The report author Andrew Boff said;
“While most bad behaviour online is just tasteless trolling, speech that incites hatred or even violence towards someone’s race, gender, sexual orientation, or disability is a criminal offence. Just because it is online does not lessen the impact of hate speech, and this needs to be better addressed by the authorities. Our police officers are well trained to deal with most offences, but when it comes to online hate crime specialist knowledge is needed. A national strategic hate crime unit will not only take the burden off our local forces, it will provide the right expertise to enable officers to properly deal with these crimes.”
Suzanne Fernandes, a victim of hate crime, said;
“Last year I was targeted online with racially abusive material which included pornography and death threats. The perpetrators also impersonated my account on Twitter more than once, targeted members of my family online and sent malicious tweets on their behalf. I decided to report the matter to the Police and in the early days of the investigation was given the impression I was wasting the Police’s time with my reports of the continually worsening situation. The first responses were not helpful and I am gradually hoping to see some progress with this investigation which has now dramatically evolved. I have been left highly distressed how long this case has continued all the while the offenders continue committing hate crime online."
The report estimates the annual staffing cost of the new strategic hate crime unit to be £159k – if all 43 police forces in England and Wales contributed to the pot, each would only need to contribute £3000 annually. The time savings provided by the unit would help pay for itself in the long term.
The report also suggests a number of steps that can be taken by internet service providers, the Mayor of London, and the wider criminal justice system to tackle online hate crime.
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