Trolls beware because online abuse is now being taken as seriously as hate crimes that are committed offline.
Due to the growing amount of hate crime on social media, the Crown Prosecution Service has updated their guidelines for prosecutors announcing plans for tougher sentences and more prosecutions.
The strands of hate crime added into the updated regulations includes racist, religious, disability, homophobic, biphobic and transphobic abuse.
In the wake of the EU referendum last year, hate crime shot up with CPS carrying out a record number of 15,442 prosecutions in 2015/16.
In a statement the CPS said:
A hate crime is an offence where the perpetrator is motivated by hostility or shows hostility towards the victim’s disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity.
Amid rising volumes of reports to police, the CPS consulted community groups and criminal justice partners to produce these revised statements, covering the different strands of hate crime.
In recognition of the growth of hate crime perpetrated using social media, it includes a commitment to treat online crime as seriously as offline offences, while taking into account the potential impact on the wider community as well as the victim.
— CPS (@cpsuk) August 21, 2017
Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions, added:
Hate crime has a corrosive effect on our society and that is why it is a priority area for the CPS. It can affect entire communities, forcing people to change their way of life and live in fear.
These documents take account of the current breadth and context of offending to provide prosecutors with the best possible chance of achieving justice for victims. They also let victims and witnesses know what they should expect from us.
I hope that, along with this week’s campaign, they will give people the confidence to come forward and report hate crime, in the knowledge that they will be taken seriously and given the support they need.
It is believed that hate crime is significantly under reported but the CPS wants people to come forward so they can crack down on online abuse.
Emily Murray is a journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from the University of Leeds with a BA in English Literature and History before studying for a Masters in Journalism at the University of Salford. Emily has previously worked for the BBC, ITV and Trinity Mirror. When Emily isn’t writing about topics including mental health and entertainment, you can find her at the cinema which is her second home.