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U.K. Expands Hate Crime Law Enforcement with Vague Online Crackdown

What exactly does it mean to treat ‘online’ crimes the same as those committed in person?

Alison SaundersCrown Prosecution ServiceThe United Kingdom's director of public prosecutions, Alison Saunders, is making it abundantly clear she wants to prosecute more people for hate crimes and to make sure they receive enhanced sentences. In a column in The Guardian and on the site for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), she announces an effort to "treat online hate crimes as seriously as those committed face to face."

But then she says, actually, they probably won't:

The definition of hate crime, recognised by the CPS and police, is "any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice" towards the personal characteristics mentioned above. Of course, different types of offences have differing consequences and, as online abuse by its nature cannot cause direct physical harm to a victim, it can never be considered or sentenced in the same way. But we know online hate crime has devastating effects.

What Saunders describes here is awfully vague, it appears deliberately so. Her rallying cry is the absurdly circular "Hate is hate." If there's a chilling effect on speech here, it's clearly intentional: She seems to want citizens to perceive "hate" as broadly as possible.

For the sake of us Yanks and other non-Brits, I should note that the U.K.'s definition of hate crimes includes more than targeted physical assaults or property damage. It also includes bullying and harassment, a fact that offers a little more context on what she means by "online hate crimes."

But reading all the new guidance the CPS is putting out will render a person even more confused about what Saunders is saying. One might naturally assume that "hostility" on the basis of a person's race or sex or sexual orientation would be fairly clear-cut, at least as a legal matter. One would be wrong. Here's a case from a page of guidance on race-based hate crime prosecutions:

The demonstration of hostility need not be based on any malevolence towards the group in question. Disposition at the time is irrelevant: see DPP v Green [2004] EWHC 1225 (Admin.) and R v Woods, in which it was irrelevant that the offender, who used racially abusive language to a doorman after being refused admission, might well have abused anyone standing in the victim's place by reference to any obvious physical characteristic.

To eliminate the jargon on this one: The defendant in this case was hostile toward a doorman, and he threw a racist term at him. Evidence suggests he might have been hostile toward whomever was in that doorman's position, and that the hostility had nothing to do with his race. But because he used a racist term, his behavior qualifies as a hate crime.

The case law can be confusing, if not contradictory. In one case, the fact that a defendant used racial slurs during an attack did not mean that his companions should also face hate crime enhancements. But in another case, a defendant was a member of a group whose members had a history of racial hostility, and that was enough.

Writing in Spiked, Naomi Firsht takes note wonders where such baffling wrinkles in the law will lead:

'People all over the world are questioning how those in positions of power can counter the kinds of extreme views that are increasingly being aired, and how societies might do more to prevent such opinions from gestating in the first place', [Saunders] argues. But who will decide what constitutes an extreme view? Feminists Germaine Greer and Julie Bindel have been accused of transphobia because they question whether men can become women. If they expressed this opinion online today, would they be arrested?

As a general subject of discussion, I suspect the answer would be no. But what if they decide to write repeatedly about a specific, identifiable transgender person? Would that count as harassment or bullying?

Saunders' efforts resemble the behavior of ruthless drug warriors. Her crackdown comes amid an increase in reported hate crimes for the first quarter of 2017. The U.K., she apparently feels, must not be punishing people hard enough. She does not seem interested in the possibility that hate crime sentence enhancements are a poor way of dealing with the problems underlying this behavior. For an echo of that approach, look to Attorney General Jeff Sessions' attempts to stop the opioid crises by trying to prosecute more people.

Photo Credit: Crown Prosecution Service

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  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    ""Of course, different types of offences have differing consequences and, as online abuse by its nature cannot cause direct physical harm to a victim, it can never be considered or sentenced in the same way.""

    More we buy into the "words can harm" BS, the more chance that it will be considered or sentenced the same way..

  • Quixote||

    For the sake of certain Yanks and other non-Brits, the author should note that what is meant here is actually very clear, and it is exemplified in America's leading criminal troll and "satire" case, documented at:

    http://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

    Surely the author would not dare to defend the "First Amendment dissent" of a single, isolated, so-called judge in that case? Let's stop with the nonsense, and rapidly implement enhanced sentencing procedures for anyone who engages in inappropriately deadpan "parody" or other unacceptable speech. The principles involved here are not hard to understand. If you want to send out "holiday greetings" or such in another's name, that might be tolerated, but if you cross the line with anything that could feasibly damage a reputation, then be prepared to face hard time in one of our prison complexes.

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    Alison Saunders, is making it abundantly clear she wants to prosecute more people for hate crimes and to make sure they receive enhanced sentences.

    Does this not de facto make more hate crime in the world rather than less? I know she thinks all this hate crime is happening and she wants to destroy the undesirables but when they look at hate crime statistics in the UK moving forward it will look like a massive jump in the crime rate, yes?

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Yes. Which will in turn justify any and all further power-grabs by an increasingly totalitarian government.

  • albo||

    The UK will create an agency to crack down on hate speech, called the Department of What's All This, Then?

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Responsibility for enforcing those rules will fall to the Oi, Knock It Off You Gobshite subcommittee.

  • Rhywun||

    If you mean hatred of the government, maybe.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    And then we can blame it on the lack of legal guns in Britain!

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Fuck You U.K.!!!! I hate your shitty country and British people are socialist douches.

    I am in the USA which has 1st Amendment protections for free speech and 2nd Amendment protections for my guns. Come and get me.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    This is like taunting a tiger at the zoo, lovecon. Only impressive if you climb into the cage.

  • Libertymike||

    Right.

    Just try donning a white sheet, with a AR-15 strapped to your shoulder, while standing outside your nearest ADL or NAACP or SPLC office.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    Well, tell us what happened!

  • Longtobefree||

    He died.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    We'll see. These damn socialists want to force their authoritarianism across borders.

  • zazoo||

    Oh dear, someone else got lost on their way to Breitbart.

    I suggest exercising your 21st amendment rights and then taking a nap.

  • Brian||

    See, they have to define a hate crime as a something that's already a crime, but under certain circumstances.

    That way, the government itself doesn't find itself guilty of crimes all the time.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Ya know ... speaking from distant memory ... reacting to name-calling simply encourages more name-calling. if you instead laugh it off, or counter with your own. it stops it.

    My own name was uncommon except in one cartoon. Some guy named Jean, sixth grade, decided that singing the cartoon jingle would put me in my place. I laughed and said boys with a girl's name were not worth worrying about. He changed tune, got all bent out of shape, wanted to fight. I said "I don't fight girls" and kept on walking. He was really confused and became the butt of jokes for several days. I was a bit surprised that a boy named Jean had not learned how to deal with name calling.

    I am amazed at how many people today let name calling bother them.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Whatever, Fear blow Flea scare Nipple ring.

  • Jerryskids||

    My own name was uncommon except in one cartoon.

    Chiquita?

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    Bullwinkle?

  • Aloysious||

    Slowpoke Rodriguez?

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    Pepper Ann?

  • Charles Easterly||

    Josie?

  • lap83||

    Li'l Hitler?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Speedee Gonzalez?

  • Rhywun||

    I am amazed at how many people today let name calling bother them.

    I'm not. People have become increasingly narcissistic and obsessed with how they are seen by others. It was always going to lead to punishing thoughtcrime.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Whatever, Fly dung.

  • ||

    My favourite is the left calling conservatives/libertarians 'snowflakes'.

    The biggest, smug-anti-intellectual bunch of ignorant loud mouth'd shnooks who run to their fricken safe spaces and cry like babies at speech or lectures they don't like and demand the government step in and stop it to protect their insecure, narcissistic feelings call others snowflakes?

    THAT'S RICH.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    ^ Snowflake.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    ^ Cuck.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    ^old

  • Crusty Juggler||

    ^ Fecal freak.

  • sarcasmic||

    Sticks and stones can break my bones, but works can really hurt me!

  • sarcasmic||

    words

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    It was better as originally written.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Feminists Germaine Greer and Julie Bindel have been accused of transphobia because they question whether men can become women. If they expressed this opinion online today, would they be arrested?

    I hope so, because all feminists are evil and deserve to be imprisoned.

  • Rhywun||

    If they expressed this opinion online today, would they be arrested?

    If not today, tomorrow. People are already being persecuted in places like Canada and the UK for expressing incorrect thoughts about, say, race.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    In a chinchilla cage?

  • Brandybuck||

    Men can become women, but it's damned hard to be included in the Sisterhood when they have zero shared experience with their sisters. And NOT just talking about periods and shit, I mean how they never grew up as a female have no experience of men hitting on them constantly, what it was like for elementary school teachers to ignore them, or anything like that. They grew up as men, had all the privileges of men, and only when it was convenient did they choose to become a women.

    Not saying you're not a woman, but you have no woman experiences. You know as much about being a female as Rachel Dolenzol knows about being Black.

    Caitlyn Jenner has gold Olympic medals for events where women are not allowed compete. She has very little shared experience with other female athletes.

  • Libertymike||

    Lots of women have no experience of men hitting on them, constantly or otherwise.

  • Brandybuck||

    Sure, Janet Reno is an exception..

  • Libertymike||

    No you see it - such women are apt to order armed men with guns to incinerate some children while kidnapping others in order to send them back to communist hell-holes.

  • Libertymike||

    Now you see it

  • lap83||

    As a cisgendered female, I don't know anything about being a female either. And that's not just because I'm posting in a libertarian site and therefore don't exist. It's also because I've never been a male in order to sort my feelings into the proper 3 categories "womanly feelings" "manly...uh, thoughts?" "human emotions"

  • Charles Easterly||

    ... It's also because I've never been a male in order to sort my feelings....

    Lap83, you may find this interesting: A Woman's Journey Into Manhood.

    In 2006, as a social experiment, a woman named Norah Vincent disguised herself as a man. Norah explains her experiences quite well. The majority of her experiences were quite surprising to her (and the ABC interviewer as well, if I am capable of reading facial expressions). The deception took its toll on Norah, however, and the third video deals partly with her mental breakdown. If you (or anyone else here) decide to watch it please inform me of your impressions.

  • lap83||

    that looks interesting, thanks

  • Jerryskids||

    So if I call somebody a dirty Jew or a flaming homosexual - is that a hate crime? Are the very words "Jew" and "homosexual" considered derogatory? Are "dirty" and "flaming"? Just the combination? Can I get away with calling somebody a flaming Jew? And what if I call a Jew a Muslim? Is that as bad as calling a Muslim a Jew? And why would it matter what race a doorman is if you're expressing hostility toward an entire race and that's the hate in the hate crime? Does it matter if the CPS are actually members of the Liberal Party when you call them filthy shit-eating Nazis?

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Yes. Yes. Yes. I said yes. No. No. Yes. It's against the law, and that's what matters. No, and that is also a hate crime.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Haters hate that you are committing hate crimes hatefully.

    They really do hate that.

  • Alcibiades||

    The new secular blasphemies.
    Alison Saunders is a vile, ugly looking cunt.
    Probably smells too.

  • Rhywun||

    These haikus are getting a little sloppy.

  • Alcibiades||

    I tries my best.

  • Dillinger||

    stupid british bitch
    easier way than hate crime
    fire all doormen

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Regarding the alt-text, Shackelfrod, don't you mean this: KEEP CALM AND DRAGNET

    Regarding the picture, I never liked those Spitting Image puppets.

  • Brandybuck||

    Throwing people in jail for what they say IS a hate crime!

  • Libertymike||

    Kind of like throwing people in jail for saying they don't have to file income taxes?

  • Brandybuck||

    No, that's not a crime. That's a civil offense that properly belongs in civil court. If you tell me not to file, and I go to jail because of it, I get to sue you fucking ass for every dime you got!

  • Libertymike||

    How much are you gonna get when the advice was proffered gratis, out of love for a fellow patriot?

  • Dillinger||

    ala Bill Benson?

  • ||

    Hey Alison Saunders.

    /snaps fingers.

    Yoo-hoo! Over here.

    Go fuck yourself.

  • Jerryskids||

    Speaking of stupid law enforcement, Officer who OD'd in police station charged with taking heroin from evidence locker.

    A former police officer in the Johnstown police department who overdosed in the roll call room now faces criminal charges, state police said today.

    William Slisz, 35, of Portage, was found lying in a fetal position Sept. 18, 2016 after gaining access to heroin in an evidence locker.
    (snip)
    Slisz was placed on administrative leave after the overdose, and resigned in March

    Just exactly how slow can the wheels of justice turn when there's a cop involved? You find him OD'ed in the fucking squad room and it still takes 6 months to stop paying him and a year to figure out if there's maybe a chargeable offense involved?

  • Crusty Juggler||

    ^ Hate crime.

  • Dillinger||

    how would one pronounce that?

    Officer Brownstone.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    He wanted to become a mounted officer, and badly misunderstood the phrase "riding the horse."

  • ||

    +1 been through the desert

  • damikesc||

    What exactly does it mean to treat 'online' crimes the same as those committed in person?

    It means George Orwell was not cynical enough. He assumed such nonsense would require an enemy for the people to hate to drive them to this. It only requires do-gooders trying to protect everybody's feelings.

    That cover of Jonah Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism" book fits this entire idiocy so beautifully...

  • ||

    You ask too many questions.

    They'll know when they see it.

  • damikesc||

    "any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice" towards the personal characteristics mentioned above.

    Nothing says "good idea" like making it illegal for somebody to INTERPRET you as being mean.

  • Longtobefree||

    "any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice"

    I guess there is no mens rea in Britian. The alleged victim gets to decide what you were thinking at the time you say something, and THAT determines if you go to jail or not?

    So if I am standing on a corner saying 'aardvark' over and over, and someone from PETA decides that what I REALLY mean is I want to kill and eat an aardvark, and that offends them, it is off to jail for me. And what could I possibly do in my defense? I can't argue I meant something else, because what I mean is not what I say, but what the other person decides I mean. I guess I feel more in tune with Trump now.

    I love the fact that any given (already) criminal act can become a 'hate crime' based on factors completely beyond the alleged perpetrator's control. A thief decides it is time for dinner, so he is going to rob the next person he sees. Evidently he will face different charges, and different penalties depending on what the next person he sees is. A white middle aged male, simple robbery. A other than white person, more charges and time in jail, a other than heterosexual, even more charges and time. Madness.
    I guess global warming is giving too many Brits sunstroke.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    The alleged victim gets to decide what you were thinking at the time you say something, and THAT determines if you go to jail or not?

    BS indeed. But I bet this concept only applies to the peasants. If a peasant decided the someone in the ruling class offended them, too bad.

  • Dillinger||

    "any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice"

    stupid people thought this defined anything.

  • Charles Easterly||

    The demonstration of hostility need not be based on any malevolence towards the group in question.

    Am I correct in interpreting this to mean "It is unnecessary for the conduct in question to involve hatefulness for the conduct to be punished as a hate crime."?

  • Cynical Asshole||

    What Saunders describes here is awfully vague, it appears deliberately so.

    Of course it is. If it was crystal clear, then people would know where the line is and be able to anticipate when they may be arrested and prosecuted for "hate crimes." By keeping it vague the government can selectively enforce it and keep any citizens who may be prone to "wrongthink" from ever uttering or typing any words that could be remotely construed as "hate." This is how one builds a utopia.

  • Ron||

    speaking is hate speak so no one speak anymore

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Speaking of that, I hate that idea.

  • Longtobefree||

    "any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice"
    I, being 'any other person' as defined in the law, find every word uttered by this person to be motivated by a hostility and prejudice against rational functioning human beings.
    OFF WITH HER HEAD!

  • KerryW||

    My feeling is that what people call a hate crime is really just a thought crime -- either it's already a crime or it isn't.

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