Arrests for online hate speech in county on rise

Online hate speech figures are on the rise.
Online hate speech figures are on the rise.
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The number of arrests made for online hate speech in West Yorkshire has almost doubled over the past five years.

They jumped by 45 per cent from 162 in 2012/13 to 236 in 2016/17, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Last year’s total marks a slight fall in arrests under section 127 of the Communications Act after a significant rise in 2015/16 when they peaked at 257 – the equivalent of almost five every week.

As with other forms of hate crime, it is an offence to make comments online which are perceived by the victim, or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice based on disability, race, religion, sexuality or gender identity.

Assistant Chief Constable Catherine Hankinson, of West Yorkshire Police, said the force had undertaken work to encourage the reporting of hate crimes and to improve the way they were recorded by the force.

“A number of sub-categories for the recording of faith and disability hate crimes are being introduced to get a better understanding of the impact of national and international events on local communities and improve and target services for victims,” she said.

“As part of our commitment to making communities safer and feel safer, West Yorkshire Police is committed to engaging with communities to increase the under-reporting of hate crimes and hate incidents.”

The force employs specialist hate crime co-ordinators in each district to help investigating officers identify perpetrators, providing after-care support for victims and increase awareness in communties.

They also work alongside other organisations such as local councils, Victim Support and the numerous community-based third party Hate Incident Reporting Centres (HIRCs) such as the Reginald Centre in Chapeltown and the St George’s Centre in Middleton.

Anyone with information about a hate incident should call 999 in an emergency or 101 in a non-emergency, or visit the West Yorkshire Police website.