Belfast Telegraph

Friday 11 July 2014

Girl 'pleased' tweets probe ended

Paris Brown resigned as youth police and crime commissioner for Kent over comments she made on Twitter

Britain's first youth police and crime commissioner, who stepped down from the role over offensive comments she made on Twitter, is "pleased" police are taking no further action against her, her lawyer said.

Paris Brown, 17, was meant to be providing young people's views on policing but instead had her own mobile phone seized as officers investigated her tweets amid claims they were homophobic, racist and violent.

It has emerged that lawyers representing Miss Brown have written to the chief constable of Kent Police complaining of their "wholly disproportionate" response.

A statement from law firm Olswang said: "We, her solicitors, are unsurprised by the decision that no further action is warranted. We would regard this as inevitable, given that it was obvious that no criminal offence was committed. Paris and her family are pleased this matter has been brought to a close. She has had a difficult time recently, in part due to the media and inappropriate police scrutiny. She is glad to put this behind her and move on. Her family asks that the media allow her to do this and to respect the family's right to privacy."

Officers had questioned Miss Brown, from Sheerness in Kent, after the force received more than 50 complaints from members of the public about her tweets.

The teenager, who was to earn £15,000-a-year from the role, previously apologised for causing offence with the messages she posted between the ages of 14 and 16. She denied being anti-gay or racist, and said she is against taking drugs, insisting that a reference on Twitter to making "hash brownies" was from a Scooby Doo film. The offensive tweets have now been deleted.

A spokeswoman for Kent Police said: "Whilst some of the language used is offensive, particularly the comments which derogatorily refer to particular social groups, we do not believe that in the context they are grossly offensive on a reasonable objective assessment considering intent. We have spoken to the CPS about our findings, and given them our view that this case does not pass the evidential threshold for prosecution; we will make no recommendations to them for charges and will take no further police action having discharged our duty to investigate."

The letter to Chief Constable Ian Learmonth from Miss Brown's lawyers questioned the scope and nature of the investigation. They said she was visited by a Special Branch officer at her home on April 11, along with a second officer, and asked to surrender her mobile for examination. Then she was requested to attend an interview under caution on April 14. She was quizzed for one hour and seven minutes about material posted on her Twitter account which had already been published in the media. Her phone was returned three days later.

In their letter, her lawyers said: "As we are sure that you will readily understand, being subject to a police investigation is highly distressing for any person, but especially so for a teenager, particularly one who has been recently subject to such adverse media coverage. In such circumstances, we believe that the police must weigh carefully the extent to which an investigation relating solely to social media activity is merited." Olswang also referred to the interim guidelines from the Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer regarding prosecutions relating to social media.

Kent police and crime commissioner Ann Barnes appointed Miss Brown to the position earlier this month and was to pay £5,000 of the teenager's salary from her own pay. She praised Miss Brown as a "remarkable young woman" and said her decision not to take up the role, which was due to begin this summer, was "very sad". Another youth commissioner will be appointed later this year, but Mrs Barnes said there were "lessons to be learned" before someone replaces Miss Brown. The teenager's Twitter account was not checked as part of the recruitment process.

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