An elderly “pillar of the community” had to be questioned under UK so-called hate crime laws because she honked her horn at a woman who happened to be black, revealed a senior police commissioner.
Anthony Stansfeld, the police commissioner for Thames Valley, used the example as he called for a change to legislation that he said means anything “perceived” to be a hate crime has to be investigated.
He told the Times, “It was an absolute classic. An elderly couple turned up at a petrol station and there was a woman who had filled up with petrol in front of them.”
“She was taking ages fiddling around and the lady who was driving, who was in her seventies, peeped on the horn and out flew an Afro-Caribbean lady who screamed abuse at them, went into the kiosk, and reported it as a hate crime,” he said.
According to Stansfeld, current legislation meant the police had to investigate, and the elderly woman was questioned under police caution.
‘Risk of Huge Injustices’
He said that they had to put the incident on record.
“She asked us to remove it but the law is such that once it’s on the books we cannot do so,” said Stansfeld.
The UK does not have a single statue that handles what is often dubbed as “hate crime.”
However, the Home Office recently asked the law commissioner to look into the collection of legislation that covers what it described as hate crime, to see if it needed revision, including suggesting that misogyny could be considered as an addition.
Stansfeld however, said that even as it stands, current legislation could lead to “huge injustices” and is calling for it to be changed.
He voiced his support for other senior police officers who have recently pushed back against the recent emphasis on hate crimes.
They argue there are simply more important things to focus on, such as growing knife crime, record homicide levels, and the fact that only one in every 20 burglaries is solved.
In a speech on Oct. 31, Sara Thornton, chair of the National Police Chief’s Council, said that misogyny should not be added to what many police officers feel is an ever-growing list of hate crimes.
She said that while it was “a concern for some well-organized campaigning organizations,” it should not be a matter for police.
‘Thoughts Should Not Be Criminal’
“Police-recorded crime has risen 9 percent,” she said. “Homicide has hit the highest point for more than 10 years. There’s been a 12 percent rise in knife crime. Robbery has gone up 22 percent and vehicle theft 7 percent.”
Last summer police chiefs were asked to start recording hate incidents, including misogyny, when no crime had been committed. Some refused.
Other top-ranking police officers rallied behind Thornton’s remarks, including the head of London’s Met Police, the most senior police officer in the country.
The Home Office in September asked the Law Commission to review hate crime laws and to consider adding women to the list of legally protected characteristics such as race, sexuality, and religion.
Index on Censorship said making misogyny a “hate crime” would do little to protect women from abuse and violence.
“Laws that criminalize speech are deeply problematic,” it said a statement. “In a free society, thoughts should not be criminal no matter how hateful they are. Yet laws that make ‘hate’ criminal—in a well-meaning but misplaced effort to protect minorities and persecuted groups—are on the rise.”