21 Apr 2013

Paris Brown: no further action over Twitter comments

No further action will be taken against Paris Brown, Britain’s first youth police and crime commissioner who stepped down from the role over offensive comments she made on Twitter, police confirm.

Paris Brown (pic: Getty)

Paris Brown, 17, was meant to be providing young people’s views on policing but found her tweets being investigated amid claims they were homophobic, racist and violent.

A spokeswoman for Kent Police said today: “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 statement added: “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.”

Apologised for offensive messages

Miss Brown, from Sheerness in Kent, who was to earn £15,000-a-year from the role, has since 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.

The teenager’s Twitter account was not checked as part of the recruitment process.

On Saturday it emerged that lawyers representing Miss Brown have written to the chief constable of Kent Police complaining of a “wholly disproportionate” response to the Twitter comments.

Her questioning by officers came after the force received more than 50 complaints from members of the public amid claims that the tweets were homophobic, racist and violent.

Questioned Special Branch involvement

Her lawyers, Olswang, have written to Chief Constable Ian Learmonth about the scope and nature of the investigation, including the decision to seize her phone and for Special Branch to quiz her.

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.’

‘Weigh up value of investigation’

“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 (DPP), 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.