A Brief Note on a “Racially Aggravated Public Order Offence”

From The Sunday Times:

Last week, Jane Savidge, 69, went public to say she was the person who’d honked her horn when a driver ‘took ages’ and blocked her car at a petrol station in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, in May 2015. 

The driver she tooted at happened to be black, and Thames Valley Police were forced to quiz the pensioner under current current hate crime laws.

…Savidge said she had been troubled by the police’s insistence that the incident be recorded as a “racially aggravated public order offence”, even though the other woman later met the other officers and agreed that a crime “had not occurred”.

…Thames Valley police said: “Following a review of the circumstances, the incident was reclassified as a hate-related incident in line with national guidance.”

The story has gained some wider media interest, as an example of someone being unfairly tainted as a hate-crime suspect following a trivial incident in which the aggrieved party’s allegation of racism was clearly unwarranted. It also draws attention to the problematic nature of how “hate-related incidents” are defined: as an incident that may not even be a criminal offence but which “the victim, or anyone else, thinks is based on someone’s prejudice” – never mind that the complainant might not actually be a “victim”, but someone whose perspective is unreasonable or who may even be complaining vexatiously.

However, less attention has been given to the “public order” element in the story. The expression “racially aggravated public order offence” means that a public order offence is alleged, and that the supposed motive made it worse. Yet we can be very confident that the police would not usually treat someone who tooted their horn once to signify “get a move on” as having committed an offence at all. This means that the “public order offence” was invoked here purely to have something on which to hang “racially aggravated”.

This is not a pedantic point: if it were indeed the case that Thames Valley Police was “forced to quiz the pensioner”, then the officers involved would not have needed to come up with a non-existent “public order offence” as a device to facilitate the investigation.

Some might suspect here overzealousness in pursuing allegations of racism (perhaps due to fear of being accused of not taking complaints seriously enough), although my guess is that what happened more likely reflects TVP’s “believe the victim” mentality that means that trivial and false complainants are uncritically indulged.

6 Responses

  1. It is very sinful to have racially aggravated crimes since God has separated the nations as part of His will to fill the Earth with them, not England. I know that it is painful to be on the butt of any kind of abuse, racial, religious, personal or political; but this is no grounds for making any of these reasons, crimes or points for aggravation or mitigation. We do not, for instance, have crimes for incitement to political hatred; everything can be covered by laws against incitement to violence.

  2. Car horns need to be banned, as you never know who is in the car in front of you, or indeed the car behind, to the left or right of you when you use it.

    I cannot think of a safe situation to use your car horn without risking arrest.

  3. Don’t forget we’ve already had an arrest and prosecution for revving an (temperamental old British sports car’s) engine a racist manner.

    Although the charge was changed after the driver was hauled into court.

  4. I wonder to what nation Thames Valley Police are referring when they refer to “national guidance”. England, or the United Kingdom?

    I ask this because I am having a bit of a set-to with Police Scotland at the moment:

    Police Scotland decides not to record its own hate incidents

    • When you make your FOI request be sure to ask for how many reports from other, non Christian religion, and other non religion based complainants, they received.

      How many of those were in “circumstances requiring action on the part of officers or staff, which may require them to exercise professional judgement or discretion”.

      ln how many of those it was “assessed the circumstances” were “not based on malice or ill will towards any social group”.

      In how many of those they “can therefore confirm that the circumstances will not be recorded as hate related and that no further action will be taken in respect of this matter”.

      Perhaps something that can be pursued nationwide?!

  5. The Police seem to be too much interested in Homosex ‘Pride’ Parades to be able to do anything properly.

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