A man being hit by a biscuit and offensive text messages are now among incidents being classed as violent crimes, according to Norfolk’s police and crime commissioner.
Stephen Bett has renewed his criticism of changes in the guidelines for how offences are recorded following a sharp rise in reported violent crime in the county.
Last month, Mr Bett demanded answers from senior officers after figures revealed that the number of violent offences in Norfolk rose by 14 per cent in 2014.
At the time, police said the increase was partly caused by a greater focus on ensuring that crimes were recorded more consistently across the county.
But Mr Bett claimed the figure was misleading, because of the new requirement to class the sending of malicious text messages as violent offences.
And he says some of the cases that have been uncovered since he asked for a more detailed breakdown of the statistics from chief constable Simon Bailey in mid-May are “jaw-dropping.”
Examples highlighted by the commissioner’s office this week have included a case where a child who brushed a stinging nettle across another child’s arm as they played was classed as actual bodily harm.
The same classification was given to a case in which a woman threw a biscuit at a man, which left him with a small red mark.
In another incident, a report of a mother slapping a three-year-old child’s hand as they left a shop had to be recorded as an assault and shoplifting, after officers discovered the mother had acted after finding the child had taken a chocolate bar from a shop and hidden it.
The commissioner’s office also claims that recording malicious text messages or letters as violent crimes has added 183 offences to the statistic since April alone and could add more than 1,000 cases to the county’s total every year.
Mr Bett said he had struggled to believe what he was reading, adding: “You could not make this up – it’s jaw-dropping.
“I am sure people will find these examples of what the police are having to record as violent crime hard to believe to say the least.
“Is it any wonder we have seen a rise in recorded violent crime in Norfolk if these types of incidents have to be logged?
“The last thing I want to do is to trivialise any incident where there is a victim, but I am struggling to see how someone being hit by a biscuit or brushed by a stinging nettle fits anyone’s idea of a violent crime.
“I think people will also be surprised that text messages are ‘violent’.
“There is a danger that when people see a raw headline that ‘violent crime is up in Norfolk’, the fear of crime could rise.
“That is why I feel it is important to highlight this issue and make people aware.”