PSNI guide to help Northern Ireland election candidates deal with online abuse published
A new guide has been designed to give local election candidates the knowledge and tools to deal with intimidatory and criminal behaviour.
It was produced by the PSNI and Electoral Commission and is titled 'Joint Guidance for Candidates in Elections - When it goes too far'.
The Electoral Commission says there has been a "totally unacceptable" rise in abuse, intimidation and harassment of candidates, "particularly online".
Police say the guide gives candidates "crucial information on staying safe, steps they can take to prevent physical and online abuse" and how the PSNI can support them.
It comes as female MLAs have told UTV online misogynistic abuse is deterring women from entering politics in Northern Ireland.
A survey from the NI Local Government Association said more than three quarters of councillors here have been subjected to abuse or intimidation.
Two thirds said that they'd been abused or intimidated on social media, and just over half said said it had happened in person.
Head of the Electoral Commission, Cahir Hughes, said: “The Electoral Commission takes very seriously its role to support and assist those standing in our local elections.
"Whilst the democratic process encourages discussion and challenge the increasing emergence of abuse, intimidation and harassment of candidates, particularly online, is totally unacceptable.
"This guide aims to support candidates and provide them with information on how to protect themselves and co-workers, what might constitute a criminal offence and when to report to police."
PSNI election lead, Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton, said: ‘This is an important guide for candidates which gives them crucial information on staying safe, steps they can take to prevent physical and online abuse, how the Police Service can support them and when to report an incident to police.
"Any electoral process will have a broad range of views, and generate debate, but it is totally unacceptable when election candidates become the subject of violence, abuse, intimidation or harassment."
Polling day for the local council election is on 18 May.
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