Police investigate youth police and crime commissioner Paris Brown's 'inappropriate' tweets
Tuesday 09 April 2013
Social media messages written by Britain's first youth police and crime commissioner are being investigated by the force that employs her, following complaints from the public.
Kent Police officers are to decide whether Paris Brown, 17, has committed any offences in writing apparently violent, racist and anti-gay comments on her Twitter feed.
The teenager, appointed to the £15,000-a-year role last week, posted the messages between the ages of 14 and 16 and has apologised for causing offence through what she described as her "use of inappropriate language".
Kent police and crime commissioner Ann Barnes has defended Miss Brown, stressing that her recruitment to the position - the first in the UK - was not a gimmick.
But last night, the force said: "Kent Police has today received a number of complaints about statements posted on social media. Kent Police officers are investigating circumstances to determine whether any offences have been committed."
Miss Brown, from Sheerness, Kent, has denied being homophobic, racist or violent and says she is against the taking of drugs, despite a reference on Twitter to making "hash brownies". The offensive tweets have now been deleted.
Mrs Barnes, 67, who is paying £5,000 of Miss Brown's salary from her own pay, said she did not condone the nature of the tweets but asked for some perspective due to Miss Brown's age.
She said the teenager was one of 164 applicants for the job, intended to provide young people's views on policing, and she was the best one and a "confident and articulate woman".
But she told BBC News that the teenager's Twitter account had not been vetted when they offered her the job.
"We went through a perfectly normal recruitment process and we had her vetted by the force," she said.
"Nobody normally looks through anybody's Twitter feed - perhaps that's a lesson for the future. We are living in a different world now."
A Kent Police spokeswoman said: "Kent Police undertakes varying levels of vetting and higher levels of vetting can include checks on a social media account."
In a statement on Sunday, Miss Brown said: "I deeply apologise for any offence caused by my use of inappropriate language and for any inference of inappropriate views.
"I am not homophobic, racist or violent and am against the taking of drugs.
"If I'm guilty of anything, it's showing off and wildly exaggerating on Twitter and I am very ashamed of myself."
Her appointment has been condemned in the light of the publication of the tweets.
South Thanet Conservative MP Laura Sandys said on Twitter: "Paris Brown should step down as youth crime tsar for Kent... Gimmicks always backfire."
Fellow Kent Tory MP Damian Collins also called for the teenager to go.
The member for Folkestone and Hythe said: "I do not think the role should have been created in the first place.
"I feel sorry for Paris Brown to be put in this position where there is such a high level of scrutiny about what she has said.
"She is going to be under constant pressure to explain what she meant and it's best that this young person should rebuild her life away from intense media scrutiny.
"I think that it's best if it would be Ann Barnes to take that decision herself and say that creating the post was a mistake."
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