What to do if you receive Abusive Messages?
Receiving abusive messages can be a distressing experience for those involved and the BHA seeks to protect all our participants from receiving abusive messages. If you find yourself in a situation whereby you have been receiving abusive messages, please read the guidance below on how to report the issue and the support which is available to you.
When should I report abuse to the police?
The police have powers to investigate people for sending abusive messages, which can lead to them to being fined or facing more serious sanctions.
The laws are specific and the police are likely to take action only in the most serious circumstances, but it is still advisable to report abuse to them when it falls into any of the three categories outlined below.
How do I contact police?
You can report to any police officer in person. The easiest route to take is likely to be by reporting online via the website of your local police force.
To find out your local police force, you can use this online tool: https://www.police.uk/pu/contact-the-police/.
You can also call 101 for non-emergencies.
If you feel you are in any immediate risk of harm, you should call 999.
When will the police take action?
The most relevant law covers what are called malicious communications. These are messages sent on social media, email, text message, telephone or post and can be a criminal offence.
There are three main situations in which the police will consider acting under this law.
- First, is the message indecent, grossly offensive, obscene, threatening or menacing?
- Is this a case of harassment? To establish this, there must be two or more related occurrences. The messages do not necessarily have to be violent in nature but would need to have caused some alarm or distress.
- Another area where police may act is when the messaging is thought to be based on someone’s prejudice towards the victim because of their race, sexual orientation, religion, disability or because they are transgender. If you are attacked verbally for your race, your sexuality, your religion or because you have a disability or are transgender, the police can charge someone with an offence under laws against hate crime or racial hatred.
Find out more about this here: https://www.met.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/hco/hate-crime/what-is-hate-crime/
If you think that you have received an abusive message in any of these categories, you should report to the police and the BHA. The BHA may be able to assist you with police, though the police will decide when to take action and that is usually in the most serious cases only.
What action will the police take?
The police will assess the seriousness of the offence and decide whether to investigate.
In some cases, they may issue a caution and warn the offender not to make further contact with the victim.
If someone is charged, the case is likely to come to court. If convicted of an offence, a fine is the most likely punishment, though this would typically be accompanied by a strong warning not to repeat the offence.
In the most serious cases, which are likely to include threats of serious violence and hate crime, a prison sentence may be considered.
What information will they want from me?
- The more information and evidence you can provide, the more the police will have to work with. This includes screen shots, record time, date, content of messages, any details of the sender (profiles/numbers/email address).
- You should report the matter as soon as you are able. If it has taken a number of weeks or months for something to be reported, then the police are less likely to commit a great deal of attention or resource to it.
When should I report abuse to the BHA?
The BHA wants to protect our participants from abusive messages whenever this is possible. Our sport believes in respect for each other, for our rules, our officials, our participants and, of course, for our horses. We expect people who come to our racecourses or engage with our participants in social media to show the same respect. We expect the same of our participants and those who work in racing.
The BHA would like to know about all those cases where participants have gone to police. If you are unsure whether abuse falls into one of the categories listed above, or you are not sure how to engage with police, the BHA will assist you. We may be aware of other incidents involving the abuser which can support a police investigation.
Whilst we would need to do our own assessment, the more serious the matter, then the more likely that the BHA would wish to act. However, our powers are much more limited than the police.
How do I contact the BHA?
When will the BHA take action?
If a case has been reported to police, we will want to work with them to support any action they decide to take. We also want to ensure that we have a clear picture of who is offending and how, so that we can take our own action to protect our participants.
If they are or registered with us, as racing staff and owners are, we can still take action but we have fewer powers and the punishment may be lighter.
If someone is not licensed or registered, we can exclude them from the sport. This means they are not allowed to visit a racecourse.
When should I report abuse to social media and email platforms?
Social media and email platforms have their own codes of conduct for their users and have the power to bar people from using their service. They will take action but generally only after a complaint has been made to them.
How do I contact social media and email platforms?
Social media platforms are coming under increasing pressure to ensure that they protect their users from harmful content, which includes abusive messages. Most will provide their users with tools to protect themselves and report inappropriate content anonymously, please see below for where to report if abuse is received by Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat
- Facebook allows you to report content that goes against their community standards, whilst also providing practical advise about how users can protect themselves from future communications from that sender: https://www.facebook.com/help/1417189725200547
- Twitter also offers a reporting tool, where multiple messages can be included in the same report to ensure that a pattern of behaviour can be included. you’ve submitted your report, they’ll provide recommendations for additional actions you can take to improve your Twitter experience: https://help.twitter.com/en/safety-and-security/report-abusive-behavior
- Instagram asks that all abusive behaviour is reported to them to help them regulate the platform: https://help.instagram.com/contact/584460464982589
- Snapchat hosts a support site, where you can contact the company using its ‘I need help’ page. It also has a function to report individual snaps as well as troublesome accounts: https://support.snapchat.com/en-GB/a/report-abuse-in-app
- Emailing platforms (such as Gmail and Hotmail ) will also have a process for reporting abusive emails that come from senders using their services.
When will social media and email platforms take action?
When signing up to use a social media platform or creating an email address, users will be required to agree to the terms and conditions of that platform. These will often include a way of regulating behaviour, such as community standards or guidelines.
If the messages that are sent are in breach of these terms and conditions, the platform has the power to block access to certain features, disable an account or contact law enforcement.
Receiving abusive messages can be extremely upsetting. If you, or anyone you know has been affected by such messages, please make use of the below support that is available:
- Racing Welfare: 24 hour support line | 0800 6300 443 | www.racingwelfare.co.uk
- Mind: Confidential information and support line | 0300 123 3393 (lines open 9am – 6pm, Monday – Friday)
If you feel you are in any immediate risk of harm you should call 999.