The Home Office has today announced plans for the National Online Hate Crime Hub which has long been called for by Campaign Against Antisemitism.
We have repeatedly brought our experiences to the attention of the Home Office and politicians as we frequently find that regular police officers do not know how to obtain evidence from social media companies, are unfamiliar with the rules for collaboration between different police forces, and often fail to understand when an antisemitic crime has been committed online.
In our submission to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee in February, we noted: “Investigating online hate crime and extremism requires specialised skills which are clearly lacking in many police forces, and also require a national approach due to the interconnected nature of online hate crime and extremism.” The solution we recommended was “A national centre for policing online hate crime and extremism”, which is what the Home Office has now announced.
The new National Online Hate Crime Hub will be run by the National Police Chiefs’ Council and will focus on increasing the number of prosecutions for online hate offences. Its primary purpose will be to improve the investigation of online hate crime by identifying perpetrators, compiling evidence packs and ensuring that the relevant police forces take action. At present, Campaign Against Antisemitism’s Crime Unit has to intervene significantly to assist investigations into online antisemitic hate crime.
In making the announcement, Home Secretary Amber Rudd confirmed that “What is illegal offline is illegal online, and those who commit these cowardly crimes should be met with the full force of the law.”
The responsibilities and structure of the National Online Hate Crime Hub precisely mirror what Campaign Against Antisemitism has been calling for. This new hub should greatly improve the response to online antisemitic hate crime, and we look forward to working with its officers. However, it remains to be seen whether investigations do in fact improve, and crucially whether the Crown Prosecution Service prosecutes the cases referred to it by police.