A massive 6,500 pupils from 16 schools across the county learnt about the damaging effects of hate crime on the internet, in a special day of action on Wednesday 22nd February.
Bedfordshire Police’s Community Safety Department spoke to teenagers who are at an age where they are just beginning to use the internet and have access to a mobile phone so they understand the consequences of what they post online. The team visited schools including: Cedars Upper, Houghton Regis Academy, Stratton Upper School, Goldington Academy, Sharnbrook Upper, Margaret Beautfort Middle, Brooklands Middle, Alameda Middle, Harlington Upper, Redbourne Upper, Linslade Academy, Parkfields Middle, Fulbrook Middle, Robert Bloomfield and Gilbert Inglefield Academy.
The input to schools included a hard hitting discussion of the Fiona Pilkington case, who committed suicide in 2007 following a torrent of hate crimes suffered by her and her children. The presentation also discussed a case involving the professional footballer Fabrice Muwamba, who went into cardiac arrest during a football match. Muwamba survived but as he fought for his life on the pitch, a man posted a torrent of racist abuse about the footballer on Twitter. This was reported to police and the man was jailed for 56 days.
Sergeant Carl Perri of the Community Cohesion Team said: “Recent events such as Brexit and the US travel ban have sparked strong feelings across the globe and hate crime is increasing nationally. Although locally we have not seen a significant increase, in order to help maintain community cohesion we felt it was important to run the Hate Crime Day of Action and speak to as many young people as possible, reminding them the law applies to the internet too and what you post online can be seen by everyone. We also discussed the devastating effects hate crime can have on individuals and communities, how to report inappropriate messages online and how to report unacceptable behaviour. I would like to thank all the schools who accommodated us with their warm welcomes. The feedback we received was excellent.”
Schools liaison officer Richard Denton added: “We felt it was important students in Bedfordshire are able to identify and fully understand what a hate crime is; that it is illegal to target an individual for who they are no matter what their race, religion, gender, sexual identity or disability and most importantly how to report these incidents. We work hard to keep our communities safe and by engaging with children and young people we hope to assist them to make informed decisions.”
Sergeant James Hart, the force’s Hate Crime Lead, said: “It was brilliant to be involved in the sessions. The young people we spoke to seemed to get a lot out of yesterday’s sessions, and had a good understanding of hate crime and the impact it has on victims and the community, which is very positive. We hope to be able to run similar sessions again in the future.”
Keep up-to-date with news and information about how Bedfordshire Police is tackling hate crime by following the @bedshatecrime Twitter page. You can also follow the Community Cohesion Team at: @bedscohesion.