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Hampshire PCC calls for further clarification on non-crime hate incidents

Hampshire’s PCC Donna Jones hit the headlines last week when she criticised her force’s response to a social media incident. Now she is calling for more clarity on official guidance.

On 28 July, Hampshire officers arrested two men following a social media post - one for malicious communications, the other for obstruction of an officer. 

The former arrest related to an image posted on social media of Progress Pride flags in the shape of a swastika. Five officers had attended following a complaint from the member of the public of an alleged hate crime. 

In response to the incident, PCC Jones said she was “concerned about both the proportionality and necessity of the police’s response”. 

Hampshire Constabulary said: “When officers arrived they were prevented from entering the address to discuss a potential resolution to the matter.

“As a result, officers felt it was necessary to arrest a man at the scene so they could interview him in relation to the alleged offence.

“They were acting in good faith after being deployed to investigate the report of an offensive image being shared online.”

The man has now been NFAd and the force has said they are working with their PCC on deployment of resources. 

However, PCC Jones has told Police Oracle that she has written to the College of Policing, asking for additional support and clarity to forces.

She said she is also working to make other PCCs aware of the incident. 

She said: “People want the police to turn up when they have been a victim of burglary, they want officers to respond to anti-social behaviour, they want the police to reduce knife crime and be more visible, and they want the process of reporting incidents to be made easier.

“I know from my contact with the public that some people are not always getting a response from the police when they report a crime. What concerned me about the incident that happened in Aldershot was that officers visited the man twice. He was then arrested and five police officers were present.” 

A few weeks ago (July 21), the College did revise the Hate Crime guidance - advising officers not to get involved in social media rows that are not motivated by hate, in a move to reduce unnecessary recording of “non-crime hate”. 

The guidance sets out: 

The College nonetheless emphasised officers cannot discount low-level offences due to their potential to escalate. 

PCC Jones has written to the College since the incident in Hampshire, and has told Police Oracle she would like more support for officers with regards to interpreting the proportionality threshold for taking action in these cases. 

This week she has additionally made the decision to end Hampshire’s Hate Crime Awareness Course provision as a Community Resolution option. 

She said: “Other restorative justice and community resolution provision will still be in place for police to utilise for serious hate crimes and other incidents, but only where appropriate.

“When a hate crime is committed it is right and proper that it is fully investigated and the appropriate action taken. Hate crimes can cause significant impact on those who are targeted," she added. 

“However non-crime hate incidents need to be handled in a different way, the College of Policing guidance should be considered along with a proportionate police response. 

“I want to be clear that when someone has been targeted and suffered violence or abuse because of their protected characteristics, and the incident reaches the evidential threshold for a hate crime, perpetrators can expect police action. This is vital." 

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