|Nottinghamshire Police will record and investigate misogyny as a hate crime|
Nottinghamshire Police have decided to classify any behaviour perceived to be misogynistic as hate crimes. This includes such things as wolf-whistles, unwanted texts, taking an unwanted photograph and sexual harassment.
A spokeswoman for Nottinghamshire Police said that categorising misogynistic behaviour as a hate crime and highlighting the issue would lead to increased reports and therefore a higher number of charges. This is interesting since the police also admit that they will be applying the label “hate crime” and investigating allegations that “do not reach the charging threshold” – or to put it another way, things that are not crimes and thus cannot result in a higher number of charges.
Wolf-whistles and the taking of unwanted photographs are not currently criminal offences unless they go beyond a one-off incident and become harassment. So far as I am aware, there are no plans to criminalise these behaviours, although I read in the Times that they are offences in other countries. Unwanted text messages is a very broad label – I get them all the time from my local pizza shop – but there is a point where sending unwanted messages becomes a crime, usually harassment although other offences could be committed depending on the content of the message. The police already investigate these and have done for many years
Interestingly, the Times reports that “[g]roping a woman will be classed as a hate crime for the first time and may result in a criminal charge.” I hate to break it to you guys at the Times but groping a man or a woman has been a crime for a very long time and I would hope Nottinghamshire Police have always taken that type of thing seriously.
Just to put this decision into context, Nottinghamshire Police is dealing with £54 million budget cuts over the past 4 years and £12 million of budget cuts to come. The force has been looking to make cuts, most notably by axing the forces city division and, potentially cutting 400 officers over three years. The Chief Constable of Nottingham Police has recently quit and his deputy has delayed her retirement to become temporary Chief Constable for eight-months until April 2017.
All these leaves me wondering whether Nottinghamshire Police actually have the resources to take on investigations into matters that are clearly never going to result in criminal charges and how they’d go about such an investigation.
Will police officers be sent to speak to builders accused of wolf-whistling? Will they expend resources tracking the man responsible down? What if he doesn’t wish to speak to the police, will they arrest him? Would such an arrest even be lawful? Section 24 of Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 would suggest not since an officer can have no grounds for suspecting that somebody has committed an offence when they know the thing they are investigating is not an offence. True they could dress it up as harassment but all that will do is waste time and money not to mention open the force up to wrongful detention lawsuits!
I think the reality is that despite the force’s claim that all reports will be investigated, the reality is that the police are unlikely to have the resources or the powers to investigate the trivial incidents at which this new policy is aimed. Serious incidents will continue to be investigated as always. So, when all is said and done, this policy looks like a paper exercise designed to record incidents rather than tackle them. It also looks rather like a publicity stunt for a new Chief Constable in the first few weeks of her job and looking to make a mark.