• Saturday, August 13, 2022

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Don’t get involved in Twitter debates, non-crime hate incidents should not be recorded, British police told

People commenting in legitimate debates should not be stigmatised because someone is offended: College of Policing

New guidance for police aims at ensuring people can engage in lawful debates without police interference.(Photo by Ming Yeung/Getty Images)

By: Chandrashekar Bhat

People commenting in legitimate debates should not be stigmatised because someone is offended, according to new guidance for policing in England and Wales that tells officers “not to get involved in debates on Twitter”.

“Trivial” non-crime hate incidents “should not be recorded if there is no basis to conclude that an incident was motivated by hostility”, the College of Policing said in its guidance on Thursday.

Coming after revelations that police recorded every incident where a victim perceived hostility based on race, religion and other issues, the latest move aims at ensuring people can engage in lawful debates without police interference.

The interim guidance which will be in place till the Home Office comes up with a new code of practice, said, “if a record is made, it must be done in the least intrusive way possible”.

“It may not be necessary to record the name of an individual or the location of an incident”, it said, seeking to strike a balance between free speech and protecting vulnerable people.

According to reports, more than 120,000 people were recorded by police for non-crime incidents in the past five years.

The guidance makes it clear that the “recording of a non-crime hate incident is not a sanction”.

“Non-crime hate incidents are not disclosed on a basic or standard Disclosure and Barring Service check,” it said.

According to it, responses should be proportionate to incidents to protect human rights while also safeguarding people.

College of Policing CEO Andy Marsh said while police forces were expected to reduce crime and bring criminals to justice, they also “have a responsibility to protect freedom of speech”.

“In all types of crime, it is important for the police to record incidents that could lead to, or be evidence of, criminality..,” the chief constable said.

“Our guidance is there to support officers responding to these incidents in accordance with the law, and not get involved in debates on Twitter,” Marsh said.

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