The UK College of Policing has issued a new interim guidance, which "seeks to redress the balance between freedom of speech and protecting vulnerable members of the public".
It also “sets out arrangements that forces should consider to support an effective response to allegations of hate crime and non-crime hate incidents and includes content for those responding to these events”, explained the police.
“Trivial, irrational incidents should not be recorded”
According to the new guidance, “non-crime hate incidents should not be recorded where they are trivial, irrational, or if there is no basis to conclude that an incident was motivated by hostility”.
Furthermore, “individuals who are commenting in a legitimate debate – for example, on political or social issues – should not be stigmatized because someone is offended”, states the document.
When non-crime incidents are recorded and dealt with, “this must be done by the least intrusive method, and achieves a legitimate policing purpose”, points out the guidance.
“For example, it may not be necessary to record personal data of any party, other than the complainant, to achieve the relevant policing purpose”, it adds.
Freedom of speech
The new document stresses that “even where the speech is potentially offensive, a person has the right to express their personally held view in a lawful way. Disagreement and debate do not, on their own, indicate hostility”.
This guidance will remain in place until the Government approves a new code of practice, “to be published in late 2022 or early 2023”. The College of Policing is working with the Home Office to develop that code.
National Police Chiefs' Council's Hate Crime Lead, Deputy Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, said they "welcome this guidance, which will support the public, uphold human rights freedoms and help officers monitor harmful incidents, responding appropriately when required".
“We must make sure that our responses are proportionate, so that human rights freedoms are protected, while also safeguarding members of the public”, underlined Hamilton.
Christians welcome the guidance
The Christian Institute has welcomed the new guidance.
"For too long, non-crime hate incidents have been used as a weapon to shut down legitimate debate on issues such as transgender ideology and sexual orientation, but it's not the job of officers to police perceived offence", pointed out Christian Institute’s Deputy Director Ciarán Kelly.