Britain’s first Youth Crime Commissioner has quit days after her appointment, following the launch of a police inquiry into a string of offensive posts on her Twitter account.
Paris Brown, who was 17 last week, said that she was not racist or homophobic but that she would not be taking up the £15,000-a–year post after falling into the “trap of behaving with bravado on social-networking sites”.
Ms Brown made the statement in front of the cameras in her last act as Youth Crime Commissioner-elect after a swirl of media interviews and photo-shoots to publicise the new post – and tearful apologies after her comments were first published in a Sunday newspaper.
Ms Brown posted anti-gay and racist messages, and wrote about sex, drinking binges and made references to drugs – comments branded “disgusting” by her employer, Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Ann Barnes.
Kent Police said that it was investigating to see if the tweets – posted by Ms Brown between the ages of 14 and 16 – amounted to criminal conduct following several complaints.
Ms Brown said: “I accept that I have made comments on social-networking sites which have offended many people. I am really sorry for any offence caused. I strongly reiterate that I am not racist or homophobic... I hope this may stand as a learning experience for many other young people.”
She said that she decided to quit to prevent the issue from hampering her ability to do a job advising Ms Barnes on youth crime issues. She had been due to start in August.
Critics said the post was a gimmick that had backfired and Ms Barnes faced questions about her role in appointing the teenager at such a young age. She had claimed last week that the Kent model was likely to be adopted by PCCs across the country.
The saga is the latest blow to the credibility of the elected PCCs. Elections last year saw record low turnouts, there have been allegations of cronyism after some appointed highly-paid deputies, and other forces have been hit by damaging rifts between PCCs and chief constables.
Ms Barnes criticised the media that led to the downfall of the young employee paid from the taxpayers’ purse. Ms Barnes was to pay a third of the teenager’s wages from her own £85,000-a-year salary as Kent’s police tsar.
“I do not believe it is their [the media’s] job to break people, particularly when they are as young as Paris,” she said. “I wasn’t recruiting an angel and I wasn’t recruiting a police officer. I was recruiting a teenager, warts and all.”
The teenager will be given a “support package” over the coming weeks, months or even years to help her recover from such a “tumultuous time”.
Ms Barnes – who was elected as Kent’s independent PCC in November last year – said that lessons would be learnt but she would still seek to appoint a youth commissioner in the coming months after conducting a review of the recruitment process. “It would have been impossible to have found a young person who had not made a silly, foolish or perhaps even a deeply offensive comment during their short lifetime,” she said.
“I don’t accept what I did was wrong,” Ms Barnes said. “I did what the people of Kent wanted me to do. People voted for me to do it.”