New guidance in England and Wales means that Prosecutors will be treating online hate crime as seriously as offences carried out in person.
The new guidance has been put in place to give Prosecutors a wider range of options when prosecuting offences of religious, sexual, racial hatred or if a person is disabled. For the first time, these guidelines specifically identify offences against people who are bisexual, who the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) say have different needs and experiences to those who are subject to anti-gay or transphobic abuse.
It is said that exceptions should be made if the Defendant is a child who may not realise the seriousness of the harm they have caused.
The Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said: “Hate crime has a corrosive effect on our society and that is why it is a priority area for the CPS.”
The CPS have said that between 2015-16, prosecutors completed 15,442 hate crime cases – the highest number ever recorded.
Hateful content spread and shared on Social Media platforms such a Facebook, Twitter and more have been often linked with terrorism and extremism. This crackdown will ensure that people subject to these crimes will see justice for the acts as if they were committed against them face to face.
The majority of people these days have a profile on one of the many social media platforms, making it one of the most easily accessible outlets for hate crime to happen.
It needs to be noted that the ‘Racial’, ‘Religious’ and ‘Sexual’ elements are aggravating features- meaning they make an offence more serious. Therefore a crime has to be committed in the first place for these types of sentence to come into force, such as Harassment, Stalking, Threatening Behaviour or even Threats to Kill.
Being imprisonable offences mean that there is the chance of being eligible for Legal Aid if you are arrested or charged with this type of offence. This means that any representation at the Magistrates Court or the Crown Court could be at no cost to the Defendant as all costs incurred will be met from public funds. (This does depend on the Defendant’s income and financial circumstances). You may need to pay a contribution towards Legal Aid in the Crown Court.