Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

British Prosecutors Pledge Crackdown on Social Media Hate Crime

  • CPS commits to treating online crime as seriously as offline
  • New guidelines on prosecutor’s approach published Monday

British prosecutors made a commitment to treat hate crimes on social media as seriously as those that happen offline, after a rise in incidents led to concerns about the "corrosive effect" it’s having on society.

The Crown Prosecution Service on Monday published revised guidelines for prosecuting hate crimes, including helping to improve access to justice for disabled victims, amid a rising number of complaints to police. The CPS prosecuted a record 15,442 hate crimes in 2015-16, but that’s still only a quarter of the number that were reported during the period.

“Hate crime has a corrosive effect on our society and that is why it is a priority area for the CPS," Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecutions, said in a statement. “These documents take account of the current breadth and context of offending to provide prosecutors with the best possible chance of achieving justice for victims."

Writing in the Guardian newspaper Monday, Saunders said recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Barcelona were even more impetus to act. While some people may criticize prosecutors for being heavy-handed, the link between online hate crimes and those face-to-face is strong, she said.

The CPS has pushed to increase sentences for hate crimes over the last few years. More than a third of sentences handed out for the offenses in 2015-16 were "uplifted" after applications by prosecutors.

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