Sentences for online hate crimes to match in-person offences

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A third of those convicted saw their sentence increased because of the hate crime element of the offence - also a record, BBC reported.

Last year, there were over 15,000 hate crime prosecutions in the United Kingdom.

Prosecutors have put out new public statements on how they approach crimes motivated by "hostility or prejudice" against the victim due to their disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity, as well as updating the official legal guidance on hate crime prosecutions.

There are specific hate crime offences, such as stirring up racial hatred, but prosecutors can also ask for a stiffer sentence following nearly any crime if they can show that it involved hostility or prejudice against, for example, gay people.

The Crown Prosecution Service has told prosecutors in England and Wales that online hate crimes should be treated as seriously as face-to-face abuse. Last year, the CPS updated guidelines to reflect the potential for social media and the internet in general to be forums for bullying, trolling and other types of harassment. Prosecutors, however, may make exceptions for children who do not fully comprehend that something published online could be a hate crime. And they suggest that "amplifiers or disseminators" of criminal social media - such as retweeters, we'd suggest - might be targeted, as well as "originators". "It can affect entire communities, forcing people to change their way of life and live in fear", she said.

"These documents take account of the current breadth and context of offending to provide prosecutors with the best possible chance of achieving justice for victims", Ms. Saunders added of the policy memos.

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Hate crime of any form is not only damaging for individuals but also for society as a whole, where it sows seeds of division and intolerance.

But following these spikes the CPS consulted community groups and criminal justice partners to produce revised statements on hate crime.

This move by Saunders will hopefully set out more clearly what victims and witnesses can expect from the law.

"I hope that, along with this week's campaign, they will give people the confidence to come forward and report hate crime, in the knowledge that they will be taken seriously and given the support they need", she said.

"Stirring up hatred is committed if a person uses threatening words or behaviour, or displays any written material which is threatening, if he intends thereby to stir up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation", CPS said in the memo.

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