Police Scotland are up to their old tricks again. It was revealed last week that they are logging jokes made on the internet because someone, somewhere, might have had their feelings hurt. A freedom-of-information request by The Times showed that more than 3,300 ‘non-crime hate incidents’ – that is, offensive remarks, including jokes on social media – have been stored on a police database somewhere north of Hadrian’s Wall over the past five years. Hundreds of Scots were placed on the insidious database last year alone.
When logging a social-media joke as a hate incident, cops trawling through Twitter must judge it to be motivated by ‘hostility towards race, religion or a person being transgender’. But it does not take much to meet this threshold. According to guidance issued by the College of Policing, an incident can be judged hateful ‘irrespective of whether there is any evidence to identify a hate element’. The jokers would then have their ‘repeated behaviour’ monitored by police for signs of ‘criminality’.
Frighteningly, although none of these ‘incidents’ is in any way against the law, the police’s record could show up on an enhanced DBS check. These are used by employers to check an applicant’s suitability for a job. Police Scotland insist that these ‘hate incidents’ will only be revealed to potential employers if cops deem it relevant to the job in question. But given the low bar the police have already established for putting people on the database in the first place, who can say what jobs would be discounted?