Ross Clark Ross Clark

If Amber Rudd doesn’t like being investigated for a ‘hate incident’, she should change the law

At last October’s Conservative party conference, Amber Rudd revealed a rather silly proposal that companies operating in the UK should be obliged to publish data on the number of foreign workers they employ. It was rightly condemned and Rudd later said that the information would not be published, only used by the government to identify areas of skills shortages among British workers.

But a ‘hate incident’? That is exactly how, it transpires, the police recorded it. When you read the inevitable headline in a few months’ time that ‘hate incidents have soared’, you may just want to reflect that one of them was a speech by the Home Secretary. It turns out that Professor Joshua Silver, an Oxford physicist, was listening to the speech – which also contained proposals to deport migrants convicted of minor offences and to tackle modern slavery – and reported it to the police as a hate crime.

The police were obliged to investigate because that is what the law requires them to do. While in an earlier age police might have sent Professor Silver away with a warning not to waste their time, they are now obliged to record every single ‘hate incident’ — defined by the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Crown Prosecution Service as ‘any incident which the victim, or anyone else, thinks is based on someone’s prejudice towards them because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or because they are transgender’. Moreover, they are obliged to consider whether the incident constitutes a ‘hate crime’, which is defined as ‘Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s race or perceived race; religion or perceived religion; sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation; disability or perceived disability and any crime motivated by hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender.’

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