Non-Crime Hate Incidents (NCHIs) are a recent and chilling restriction of our free speech. Public awareness of NCHIs has grown since police recorded Harry Miller (in 2019) and Darren Grimes (in 2020) as having committed such “incidents”.
NCHIs come from a document called the Hate Crime Operational Guidance (HCOG) published by the College of Policing (CoP), the quango responsible for the oversight and guidance of police forces in England and Wales. This quango is in fact a limited company, and NCHIs have never been required by Parliament in legislation.
This means that this new form of surveillance and speech-control is being created by a company, away from any democratic control.
The CoP defines NCHIs as: “any non-crime incident which is perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by hostility or prejudice”. In particular, this means towards a person because of their possession of certain “characteristics” (race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or transgender identity).
It defines “hostility” as being based on the existence of “ill-will”, “ill-feeling” and “dislike”. This means that certain thoughts are now being policed.
An NCHI can show up if prospective employers carry out enhanced Disclosure and Barring (DBS) checks. These are common for all sorts of professions – they could mean teachers, doctors, nurses, and many others are kept out of work simply for having made a joke on Twitter. Journalists could easily be recorded without their knowledge.
One recent high-profile case is that of Harry Miller. In 2019, Miller, a former policeman, was the subject of an anonymous denunciation for a “hate incident” via an online reporting portal because of “transphobic comments” on his Twitter account. These comments turned out to include retweeting a verse from a feminist song.
This led to Miller being visited by Humberside Police. Although no crime was committed, Miller’s incident was recorded on a Crime Report, calling him the “suspect” and the complainant the “victim”. Miller was denounced as “transphobic” by an Assistant Chief Constable.
Miller took Humberside Police to court for their actions. The court found that the application of the Hate Crime Official Guidance to Harry Miller’s case was unlawful, with his gender-critical views well within the scope of free speech protection. While the court held that recording NCHIs themselves were not unlawful, Miller is appealing this judgment, and on 9-10th March his appeal will be heard at the Court of Appeal.
NCHIs can be recorded against someone’s name whenever an accusation of hate is made, without any further investigation or notification.
This means people are being put on a list, often without their knowledge, when the police know that no crime has taken place.
NCHIs are recorded after anonymous accusations, encouraging a culture of denunciation, like in the Soviet Union. Supposed victims need not justify their opinion and police officers are told not to challenge accusers on the grounds that it is immaterial whether a “victim’s” feelings are reasonable.
The police have claimed that NCHIs are needed to prevent “escalation”, but can provide no evidence that they do this.
One police force justified NCHIs by saying that “the role of British police today goes beyond bringing offenders to justice when they commit crimes”, and includes preventing people “question[ing] the identity” of various groups.
Our paper recommends that Non-Crime Hate Incidents be removed from the Hate Crime Operational Guidance.
Instead, officers should decide whether reported activity constitutes a crime and should not record it if it does not (unless the data indicates a genuine threat of escalation to physical violence or another non-speech crime).
This would mean that instead of making our police follow speech-rules created by a quango, we trust our police to do their real job.