MPS team set up after Jo Cox murder addresses catalogue of abuse and theft complaints against MPs

Social media platforms have been urged to “get their house in order” after a specialist policing team set up to investigate crimes against MPs dealt with more than 100 complaints in its first year of operation.

Sep 14, 2017

Social media platforms have been urged to “get their house in order” after a specialist policing team set up to investigate crimes against MPs dealt with more than 100 complaints in its first year of operation. Now MPs are demanding the “right legislation” is in place to deal with the “alarming level” of complaints in order to protect Westminster personnel. The Metropolitan Police Service’s Parliamentary Liaison and Investigation Team (PLaIT), set up after the murder of the Labour MP Jo Cox, has dealt with 71 complaints of “malicious communication”, which includes abusive messages or letters, 15 thefts and seven allegations of criminal damage. There were a further five reports of harassment and four of racially aggravated harassment between August 2016 and July 2017 – making 102 in total. The figures were met with concern from MPs, many of whom have spoken out about abuse in recent months. Labour MP Rachael Maskell said the numbers – which represent about one in six parliamentarians – were “deeply worrying”, adding: “I would want to know how these figures compare to the rest of society. “It does show the vulnerability of people in public life who stand up to represent their communities. “Certainly from talking to colleagues a lot of the abuse has been online, not exclusively but it seems like most of it takes place with people behind screens. “We have to make sure that we have the right legislation so everyone is protected.” Ms Maskell, who was elected to York Central in 2015, added: “I have had far-right groups sending me death threats following the death of Jo Cox, and the police were absolutely excellent at addressing this.” Tom Watson, the deputy leader of the Labour party, said the figures were “shocking but sadly not surprising”. He said: “A number of our colleagues have been threatened with violent retribution if they voted in a particular way … we cannot let intimidation undermine our democracy in this way. “Harassment and bullying on social media is not unique to MPs. These figures show why big platforms like Twitter and Instagram have got to get their house in order.” Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton and Wallington, said the figures showed “an alarming level of crimes committed against MPs”, adding: “The level of aggression towards MPs and public servants, particularly on social media, must be toned down.” The new MPS figures come after Prime Minister Theresa May ordered an investigation into intimidation experienced by parliamentary candidates during the last election. May asked the Committee on Standards in Public Life to prepare a report, saying she was “horrified” by stories from colleagues about “intimidation, bullying and harassment”. The committee will hear evidence from various MPs, the National Police Chiefs` Council, the Crown Prosecution Service, the parliamentary director of security, and the deputy speaker on Thursday (September 14) as part of its inquiry. A number of MPs have called for an end to anonymity online and said there should be a new code of conduct for members of political parties, which will be considered by the committee as it prepares to put forward recommendations to Downing Street. The report is due to be delivered before Christmas. The news comes 24 hours after Copeland MP Trudy Harrison announced she is not holding public surgeries due to fears over her safety, following Ms Cox`s killing last year. Mrs Harrison, who was re-elected in June, responded to constituents’ concerns over her availability by saying she no longer holds advertised meetings after the tragic murder. “Now I meet with constituents who get in touch directly with my office to arrange an appointment,” she said.

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