Home Secretary: ‘Offending someone is not a criminal offence’

The police will no longer interfere with a person’s freedom of expression “simply because someone is offended”, the Home Secretary has said.

Speaking as a new Code of Practice and authorised professional practice on non-crime hate incidents (NCHI) came into force, The Rt Hon Suella Braverman KC MP said “officers must always have freedom of expression at the forefront of their minds”.

The new code emphasises that the police can only include someone’s personal details in an NCHI if the event presents “a real risk” of either “significant harm” or a “future criminal offence”.

‘Utterly corrosive’

The Home Secretary tweeted: “Offending someone is not a criminal offence. Our new code of practice on non-crime hate incidents comes into force today. Now the police will only record them when it is absolutely necessary and proportionate and not because someone is offended”.

She told the Daily Express: “The recording of so-called ‘non-crime hate incidents’ has understandably struck lots of people as Orwellian and wrong”.

She highlighted that the view “some police are more interested in virtue signalling than they are in protecting the rights of the law-abiding majority is utterly corrosive to public confidence in policing”.

College of Policing’s CEO Andy Marsh added: “These incidents should not be recorded where they are trivial, irrational, or if there is no basis to conclude that an incident was motivated by hostility.”

Lawful debate

In 2021, the Court of Appeal backed Harry Miller who argued that NCHI measures in place at the time unlawfully interfered with free speech. Police had previously logged Miller’s personal details in a NCHI record after receiving a complaint about a ‘transphobic’ tweet.

The code, which strengthens interim College of Policing measures introduced after Miller’s court victory, states that consideration must be given to the legitimate boundaries of debate on “important social or political issues where there is likely to be strong differences of opinion”.

These include the expression of opinions on same-sex marriage and religion, which have specific legal protections campaigned for by The Christian Institute.

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