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Police record thought crimes even if no law has been broken – and it could cost you a job

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The Free Speech Union sounded the alarm in a report today about non-crime hate incidents (NCHIs). It says the College of Policing, which provides guidance for officers in England and Wales, is “guilty of inventing a category of wrongdoing” that threatens freedom of speech. The Union fears that people who have not broken the law but are reported to the police could suffer long-term consequences.

The College states that an NCHI should be recorded when it is established that a criminal offence has not taken place but “the victim or any other person perceives that the incident was motivated wholly or partially by hostility”.

NCHIs can show up if someone applies for a job, such as to work with children or vulnerable adults, and goes through an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check.

Today’s report, titled An Orwellian Society, warns that because records of NCHIs can be made after an anonymous accusation, this could encourage “a culture of denunciation hitherto unknown in the UK”.

The report’s author, Dr Radomir Tylecote, adds that police officers should be trusted to use their common sense to decide if “reported activity constitutes a crime and not record it if it does not”. 

The legality of recording NCHIs will be challenged this week in the Court of Appeal by Harry Miller, an ex-police officer who was visited at work by Humberside Police in January 2019 after a complaint about his tweets.

He was told he had not broken the law but an NCHI would be recorded.

In February last year the High Court ruled that the police’s actions were a “disproportionate interference” with Mr Miller’s right to freedom of expression.

Mr Justice Julian Knowles stated: “In this country we have never had a Cheka, a Gestapo or a Stasi. We have never lived in an Orwellian society.”

However, Mr Miller’s wider challenge against the College’s guidelines was rejected. The Union is supporting his appeal on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Assistant Chief Constable Iain Raphael, of the College, said: “Without recording these incidents, we would not be collecting the information across communities which police need to monitor the build-up of tensions.”

The Home Office said: “It’s important that we properly distinguish between strongly felt debate and unacceptable acts of abuse, hatred and intimidation.”



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