Friday, 05 March 2021

Man’s anger at police record of ‘hate crime’

Man’s anger at police record of ‘hate crime’

AN elderly man is angry that police have kept a record of him being reported for an alleged hate crime.

Douglas Kedge, of Lea Road, Sonning Common, says it is “insane” that he should be made to feel guilty when he is innocent.

The 85-year-old was reported to the police by a woman in Northumberland whom he wrote to as he disagreed with a letter she wrote to the Times.

Mr Kedge, a former chairman of Sonning Common Parish Council, was telephoned by a Thames Valley Police officer and told that Rachel Mewes had complained that his letter amounted to a hate crime.

He called the case “absolute nonsense” and said it could put off other people from expressing their opinion in case they had the same experience. Mr Kedge said: “Thames Valley Police told me they have to keep a record, which is absolutely ridiculous.

“They are keeping track of me in case I commit a crime — it’s insane and I told them that and they seemed to understand.

“This is of vital importance as some people might be discouraged from presenting their opinions.”

The issue began in November after the newspaper published an article about a storyline in the ITV soap Emmerdale in which two characters decide to terminate a pregnancy after discovering the child could have Down’s syndrome.

Mrs Mewes responded with a letter saying that the episode was a deliberate attempt to perpetuate prejudice against Down’s syndrome children.

Mr Kedge said he wrote to her at her home as he considered her views to be “nonsense”.

He said: “I found her address online and politely said that her comment was out of order and it was most offensive to the producers of Emmerdale.

Mrs Mewes contacted Philip Collings, clerk of Sonning Common parish council, asking for advice on how she could deal with the letter.

Mr Kedge said: “Philip wrote back saying the best thing to do was to forget all about it and the next thing I know I had a call from the police.

“She had said to them she had found the letter threatening and was uncomfortable with the fact I found her address.

“I found it on the web and the Times had given some information of where she lived anyway.”

Mr Kedge said the officer who called him assured him the force believed no criminal offence had occurred but asked for his date of birth as the incident had to be placed on public record.

The College of Policing, which issues guidance to police dealing with hate crimes under the Public Order Act 1986, states on its website: “Where it is established that a criminal offence has not taken place, but the victim or any other person perceives that the incident was motivated wholly or partially by hostility, it should be recorded and flagged as a non-crime hate incident.”

Mr Kedge said: “The police officer was very polite and he seemed a little embarrassed by the whole thing. I told him that I understand that he was just doing his job.”

He contacted Henley MP John Howell who raised the issue with Baroness Williams of Trafford, minister of state for countering extremism, who wrote to Mr Kedge expressing her “regret for the experience” and said officials would “keep the situation under regular review”.

Mr Kedge said he didn’t regret writing to Mrs Mewes and suggested there should be an “urgent and radical overhaul” of the relevant part of the Act. It was creating extra work for the police and many hate crimes allegations were “nonsense”.

He added: “I’m concerned and angry that my details have been permanently recorded by the police for a non-crime.”

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