Police are to stop recording hurt feelings and ‘causing offence’ on Twitter as criminal offences under a major crime shake-up by the Home Office, in some rare good news for free speech online. The Telegraph has the story.
In an article for the Telegraph, Chris Philp, the policing minister, said it would stop police wasting time investigating “trivial” reports of people offended by rude text messages or chasing up neighbour disputes which had been settled by the time officers arrived.
He said the changes would save police officers 443,000 hours a year on bureaucracy and filling in crime reports so they could instead concentrate on investigating complex crimes and supporting victims. That is equivalent to putting more than 200 officers on the beat for an entire year.
“Police time is valuable,” said Mr. Philp. “I want to see officers chasing criminals and keeping the public safe, not filling in unnecessary forms.”
The changes in the way crimes will now be recorded have been recommended by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) as part of a productivity review and are expected to be backed by the Labour party.
Police chiefs have complained that past changes to the Home Office’s ‘counting rules’ – the way offences are recorded – has led to incivility, petty disputes and double counting of offences inflating crime rates. Some critics will, however, demand safeguards that recorded crime rates are not artificially massaged down.
There will be four major changes to the way offences are recorded from next month, starting with the abolition of ‘double counting’ of offences. All reported crimes for a single incident will now be recorded under the ‘principal offence’ rather than as multiple entries for different offences – as already happens with murder.
This would mean that where a victim was stalked by an offender who caused criminal damage in the process, the single crime of stalking would be recorded and investigated as the principal offence. Similarly, the case of a woman raped after being stalked or harassed would be recorded as a single offence.
Officers will be told that they should no longer record “offensive” or “rude” letters, emails, text messages or other communications as crimes as long as they are not malicious.
Read More: Police to Stop Recording Hurt Feelings and ‘Causing Offence’ on Twitter as Criminal Offences