Bill Carmichael: Time to focus on real crimes '“ a sliver of sanity in modern policing

WONDERS will never cease! This week I think we detected the tiniest sliver of sanity emerging from among senior police officers who have collectively taken leave of their senses over recent months.

Sara Thornton, head of the National Police Chiefs Council, says police need to focus on real crimes.
Sara Thornton, head of the National Police Chiefs Council, says police need to focus on real crimes.

One of Britain’s top policewomen, Sara Thornton, head of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, broke with her politically correct colleagues to announce a major U-turn in policing policy, saying: “I want us to solve more burglaries and bear down on violence before we make more records of incidents that are not crimes.”

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Hurrah! But isn’t it incredible that she had to say this – and even more telling that we are genuinely surprised these days when police officers describe their top priority as catching criminals?

South Yorkshire Police's stance on hate crime has been criticised.

This has all come about because senior officers have become so utterly obsessed with the fashionable notion of “hate crime” that they have thrown huge amounts of money and manpower into a futile attempt to stop people being rude to each other on Twitter.

This at a time, let’s not forget, when the number of actual, real crimes – you know, the sort that destroys people’s lives such as stabbings, shootings, robberies and sexual offences – is rocketing at unprecedented rate.

Chief constables shrug their shoulders and complain they just haven’t got the resources to investigate many of these crimes – although there is apparently no end of resources available to send in the flying squad if anybody makes a mildly disagreeable comment on Facebook.

This madness culminated last month with the entirely ludicrous decision by South Yorkshire Police to launch a “hurty feelings hotline” where people with far too much time on their hands were encouraged to report to the police every time they see something that upsets them on social media.

What should be the police's approach towards hate crime?

You think I’m exaggerating? I wish I were! Police bosses specifically asked the public to report “non-crime hate incidents” including offensive or insulting comments – even if no actual law had been broken.

This raises not just resource issues, but civil liberties and free speech ones too. If no crime has been committed, what business is it of the police’s to become involved? They should simply keep their noses out of it.

And what if the notion of police investigating “non-crimes” spreads to other public services? Will hospitals offer beds on their wards to people who are not sick? And perhaps the fire brigade should be called out to every building in town where there isn’t a fire?

I really feel sorry for the ordinary, decent coppers who are forced into participating in this nonsense by their politically correct bosses. Frankly, tracking down various unwashed inadequates to their mum’s spare bedroom for making stupid social media posts is not a proper job for grown men and women. Shouldn’t you be out collaring villains and protecting the vulnerable?

But it doesn’t end there. The latest idea from the Law Commission is to extend the list of protected “hate crime” characteristics beyond the current race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and transgender identity to also include ageism (hatred of old people), misogyny (hatred of women), misandry (hatred of men) and hatred of goths (we haven’t got a trendy name for that one yet, but it will come).

In other words soon pretty much every single crime will be by definition a “hate crime” and the term will become even more meaningless than it is now. And once every crime had been redefined as a “hate crime” we are supposed to be shocked when the number of “hate crimes” rises rapidly, as it inevitably will.

But there were welcome signs this week at the NPCC conference that some of the more intelligent senior officers are recognising this trendy obsession is eroding public trust in the police and making the UK force an international laughing stock.

Chief Constable Thornton, for example, called for a “re-focus on core policing”, saying: “The public expect the basics – responding to emergencies and solving crime and neighbourhood policing. It is this core policing which is seriously stretched. This is surely part of the police covenant with the public?”

She added that investigating gender-based “hate crimes” is not necessarily a bad thing: “I just argue that they cannot be priorities for a service that is over-stretched”.

Are you listening South Yorkshire Police? Let’s hope the kind of sanity Ms Thornton has demonstrated is catching.