Since writing my A-Z of Terf bullshit, I’ve had a few comments from people attempting to defend the indefensible, as I knew I would. One or two claim what’s happening does not constitute hate crime – and they’re wrong.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post called Shop a TERF and stop transphobia after my own run-in with a particularly active and vile TERF on Twitter.
Since then I’ve reported quite a few hateful TERF comments on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Despite clearly breaking the terms and conditions of these sites, what usually happens is nothing.
It appears that, unless comments are reported by several people at the same time – such as by activisits from Resisting Hate on Twitter – single complaints are simply ignored due to the fact that the sites simply don’t have enough staff to read every reported violation. A tweet is far more likely to be read and action taken if it has been reported by a dozen people as opposed to one.
EDIT! Having said that, I’ve just found out that Twitter is stepping up its efforts against the trolls from TOMORROW! About bloody time, too!
I wonder if they’ll do anything about fake accounts and stalkers…
Anyway, in my Shop a TERF post, I recommended reporting incidents of transphobia to the police, and that’s exactly what I’ve done with one of them in particular. I’m happy to report that the police are taking the matter very seriously and that wheels are in motion. Can’t say anymore than that right now as the case is active.
But a few people, one of whom claims to be a law graduate, have left messages on my blog posts, saying that it’s a waste of time reporting hate to the cops because, under UK law, they’re “hate incidents” rather than “hate crimes”.
To quote probably the most famous transphobe on the planet…
I’ve studied law in higher education myself. But that doesn’t make me an expert in every area of the law. I have looked into the law surrounding transphobic hate crime, though, so that you don’t have to. Aren’t I nice?
Here’s what I found. According to report-it.org.uk, hate crimes are…
Any crimes that are targeted at a person because of hostility or prejudice towards that person’s:
- Race or ethnicity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
- Transgender identity
This can be committed against a person or property. Anyone can be a victim of a hate crime.
Seems pretty straightfoward, right? In terms of trans hate crimes, the site defines them thus:
“Any criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender.”
So the debate among the naysayers appears to be whether the TERFs’ Twitter hatred constitutes a “hate crime” or a “hate incident”.
The same website says this about hate incidents:
Hate Incidents can feel like crimes to those who suffer them and often escalate to crimes or tension in a community. For this reason the police are concerned about incidents and you can use this site to report non-crime hate incidents. The police can only prosecute when the law is broken but can work with partners to try and prevent any escalation in seriousness.
The Citizens’ Advice Bureau also features plenty of information on the law surrounding hate crimes and hate incidents. Transphobic hate incidents include:
- Verbal and physical abuse
- Physical violence
- Threatening behaviour
- Online abuse
- Damage to property
So, the $64 million question: when is a hate incident so serious that it becomes a hate crime? You’ll like this. :o)
When a homophobic or transphobic hate incident becomes a criminal offence, it’s known as a hate crime. There are no specific homophobic or transphobic hate crimes. Any criminal offence can be a hate crime, if the offender targeted you because of their prejudice or hostility against LGBT people.
When someone is charged with a homophobic or transphobic hate crime, the judge can impose a tougher sentence on the offender under the Criminal Justice Act 2003.
Putting it simply, a hate crime must be a “crime”. So yeah, I accept that calling a transwoman a man hardly is unlikely to be classed as a crime. It’s just being annoying, stupid and bigoted.
But when you cross the line and start targeting people with stuff like this…
… then that’s constitutes hate mail – and that’s a crime under the Malicious Communications Act 1988.
The Malicious Communications Act 1988 (MCA) is a British Act of Parliament that makes it illegal in England and Wales to “send or deliver letters or other articles for the purpose of causing distress or anxiety”. It also applies to electronic communications.
Electronic communications. So we’re not just talking about handwritten letters delivered in sealed envelopes, like in the good old days. This means hate messages sent by, for example, email, SMS, Twitter, Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp.
If you’ve been targeted in this way, make sure you keep copies of all the harmful messages, as the police and CPS will need them as evidence should they take action.
In my personal case, some of the messages about me are in the public domain, such as Twitter. Others were sent privately and I have not published them.
Hate mail aside, you could even argue for a case of Harassment, Alarm or Distress under the Public Order Act 1986. This states…
“A person is guilty of an offence if he… displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening [or abusive].”
The only thing with this charge is that the harassment must be sustained. In the Joanne Gullon case, there needed to be three occasions in which she suffered abuse. Although magistrates convicted, this was later overturned at appeal.
As well as my own hate mail case, I know of others in the pipeline from other transgender people and allies – but I can’t report details here. I will try to find some older case studies later.
Why aren’t there more convictions of internet trolls, whether transphobic or not? I guess it takes a fair amount of courage to go the police and be willing to stand up in court to testify against bigots.
That’s what I’m prepared to do, and I hope more people will do the same because, unless people stand up to bigotry, it will continue to grow and flourish in this ridiculous era, when hatred almost seems the norm. If pricks like Trump and Farage can spout bile and get away with it, that legitimises the actions of other people.
At the end of the day, whatever the law says, why can’t people just live and let live? Stop judging people just for being brave enough to stand out and be different. It’s hard enough coming out as trans without all the hassle from bigots.
Hate – however you define it – is not OK.