All UK police forces are to offer election candidates security briefings, in a bid to protect them from being attacked while on the campaign trail.
A senior officer will be assigned in each force to oversee the plan and act as a point of contact, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said.
The body will oversee any reports and incidents during the course of the campaign.
Police forces will be taking steps to engage with all candidates and help them campaign safely.
— NPCC (@PoliceChiefs) November 15, 2019
Forces and the officers leading on election preparations will be briefed by the Parliamentary Liaison and Investigation Team (PLaIT), a national unit established by the Metropolitan Police after the murder of MP Jo Cox in the 2016 EU referendum campaign.
Meanwhile, election candidates are being issued with a guide that describes warning signs of dangerous escalating behaviour, including “threats of imminent violence, fixated ideas or release of personal information not already in the public domain”.
The advice is being provided as part of official information packs handed out to all registered candidates by the Cabinet Office, and has been put together by the NPCC, the Electoral Commission, the College of Policing and the Crown Prosecution Service,
It is said to set out what behaviour constitutes a criminal offence, when police should be called, and offer “practical steps” candidates can take to protect themselves, while describing traits of offences like hate crime, stalking, abusive or threatening behaviour, harassment, criminal damage and making false statements against a candidate’s character.
Candidates have been told to:
– Call 999 immediately in an emergency.
– Contact the officer in their police force in charge of election security.
– Not to canvass alone and to always make sure someone knows where they are.
– Keep records of any incidents.
– Make sure “sensitive personal information” is not widely available online and report online abuse.
NPCC chairman Martin Hewitt said: “As with every election, police will work to prevent and detect crime, and enable the democratic process to proceed unhindered.
“We take this role extremely seriously.
“Abuse or intimidation of candidates in elections has serious implications for individuals and for our democracy.
“All police forces will offer security briefings for candidates and have a senior officer responsible for this.
“Strong and varied views are the mark of a healthy democracy, but these should not cross the line into criminal abuse, harassment or disorder. There are serious penalties for those who are found guilty of criminal offences.
“We’re not going to tell anyone to limit their campaigning or enthusiasm in any way, but we are taking precautionary steps ourselves and providing sensible advice to candidates.”