Director of public prosecutions defends campaign on hate crime
England's top prosecutor has justified what she admits is a controversial campaign on hate crime, insisting she does not want to prosecute "every nasty remark on Twitter".
Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecutions, insisted that the initiative to include online hate comments had potentially reached 24 million people.
"This does not mean – as some have suggested – that we want to prosecute every nasty remark on Twitter. This is not about restricting free speech," she said in a lecture to the Police Foundation last night in London. "This is about hate crime that we would not tolerate in the street and so should not tolerate online."
Saunders defended what she described as "relatively new territory for the CPS, building on our first major campaign about sexual consent". However, it was a "crucial one", she added, "if we are effectively to tackle issues such as hate crime, which is not only damaging for individuals but also society where it sows the seeds of division and intolerance."
The DPP said that it was inevitable that a "polarising issue" such as hate crime would attract criticism. However, the campaign had potentially reached 24 million people on Twitter with its hashtag #hatecrime matters.
Home Office figures showed that police-recorded hate crime across England and Wales rose by more than 20 per cent in the first quarter of 2017, compared with that period in 2016.
The number of hate crime prosecutions also rose from just under 10,000 in 2005-06 to more than 15,000 in 2015-16.