Police have defended a controversial post about hate crime following a stabbing in Barnsley which they said had prompted a flood of ‘vile and offensive’ abuse.
A 28-year-old woman has been charged with attempted murder after a man was stabbed in Barnsley town centre on Saturday morning.
In the wake of the incident, South Yorkshire Police shared advice on Facebook encouraging people to report hate crime.
It said the information had been posted in reaction to a ‘significant increase’ in offensive abuse online directed against communities within the region following that morning’s events.
But the police advice proved hugely controversial, attracting nearly 400 comments on Facebook, where some critics accused the force of ‘Orwellian’ tactics and others said it should focus on solving ‘real crime’.
Many users objected to the force’s definition of hate, which it described as ‘any incident or crime, motivated by prejudice or hostility (or perceived to be so) against a person’s race, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity or disability’.
It was the use of the word ‘perceived’ which provoked the most criticism, with some people suggesting this amounted to ‘thought policing’.
Police have now responded to the backlash online, saying they stand by the post and will seek to prosecute those responsible for ‘unacceptable’ abuse.
Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts said: “Hate crime affects communities across the UK. Our recording of non-crime hate incidents is nationally accepted good practice and is the policy adopted by all forces.
“In the wake of this weekend’s incident in Barnsley, we have seen a significant increase on our social media platforms of offensive abuse against our communities.
“The comments are vile and offensive and, ironically, the bigotry expressed re-emphasises the need to tackle hate both within our local communities and much wider.
“Unfortunately, we see this type of offensive content on a regular basis. This will undoubtedly cause distress and fear to people within our communities. We have seen unacceptable comments, and will seek to prosecute, those responsible where appropriate.
“We will not tolerate this type of messaging and will continue, together with our partners, to raise awareness of hate.”
Ayaan Ali, aged 28, of Isleworth, London, appeared in court yesterday charged with attempted murder, affray and possession of an offensive weapon. She was remanded in custody to appear before Sheffield Crown Court on Monday, October 8.
For more information about hate, and how to report it, visit www.report-it.org.uk/home.