Prosecutors will be ordered to treat online hate crime as seriously as offences carried out face to face in plans announced by the director of public prosecutions.
Alison Saunders said the Crown Prosecution Service will seek stiffer penalties for abuse on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms.
Saunders says the crackdown is needed because online abuse can lead to the sort of extremist hate seen in Charlottesville in the United States last weekend, which left one person dead.
Writing in the Guardian, Saunders said: “Left unchallenged, even low-level offending can subsequently fuel the kind of dangerous hostility that has been plastered across our media in recent days. That is why countering it is a priority for the CPS.
“Whether shouted in their face on the street, daubed on their wall or tweeted into their living room, the impact of hateful abuse on a victim can be equally devastating.”
Saunders hopes the new plans will see more prosecutions, with longer sentences for those convicted if a jury or judge can be convinced the crime was motivated by hate.
The new policy documents cover different strands of hate crime: racist and religious; disability; and homophobic, biphobic and transphobic. They also say that victims of biphobic hate crime, aimed at bisexual people, have different needs and experiences compared to those suffering anti-gay and transphobic offences. Official figures show a 20% rise in all forms of hate crime reported to the police in the first quarter of this year. Hate crime is believed to be significantly under-reported. Read more via Guardian