The teenager appointed with great fanfare as Britain’s first Youth Police and Crime Commissioner has apologised for a series of seemingly violent and racist tweets saying: “I was naive, I was idiotic and I do regret it.”
Barely a week after she was hired to the advisory role in Kent, Paris Brown, 17, was forced to explain comments she made on Twitter that referred to “pikeys” and “fags”. The tweets, which also included references to taking drugs and violence, were posted by the teenager from the ages of 14 to 16 and published in the Mail on Sunday. One, referring to the television show Made in Chelsea, said: “Everyone on Made in Chelsea looks like a f****** fag.”
The disclosure thrust Miss Brown into the glare of television cameras, where she said: “Young people have a different language to older people. The term faggot was not meant in a homophobic manner. To young people it means silly, idiot or stupid. I don’t want to be judged on tweets that were written a long time ago. They are stupid tweets but they should not affect my future career. I want to be the voice of young people.”
In other tweets, reportedly written earlier this year, Ms Brown wrote: “F****** hell why are people from Direct Pizza so difficult to talk to!! IT IS CALLED ENGLISH. LEARN IT.”
Ms Brown denied she was racist or homophobic, insisting she was “an ordinary teenager” who was still learning the implications of growing up in a social-media age.
But the development raises questions over the decision by Kent Police and local Crime Commissioner Ann Barnes to appoint a youth commissioner – an initiative launched with the hope of promoting closer links between police and young people.
Nicholas Rogers, a Conservative councillor, said Ms Barnes’ plan had “gone badly wrong, throwing her judgement into question and damaging a young persons’s future”.
Ms Brown, from Sheerness, Kent, was elected from more than 160 applicants, in what Ms Barnes billed as a pioneering strategy to foster closer links to young people.
Today, as her apprentice was subject to the media treatment usually reserved for elected politicians, Ms Barnes said: “If everyone’s future was determined by what they wrote on social networking sites between the ages of 14 and 16, we’d live in a very odd world.” Denying allegations that the post she created was “a gimmick”, Ms Barnes said: “Young people are too often demonised by certain elements in the press and often criticised mercilessly. This new post is a practical step aimed at engaging with them.”
She told The Independent that there was a “duty of care” issue but that Ms Brown had insisted on doing media interviews herself. She also confirmed that the teenager’s application had been subject to “national vetting procedures” which had not included past social media entries.
Ms Barnes, 67, was elected Crime Commissioner for Kent last year, one of 41 such commissioners. She said she would rely on the teenager to help guide her office to help tackle youth offending. Ms Brown is not technically due to start her 12-month contract until July or August, and will be paid £15,000, of which a third will come from Ms Barnes’ salary and two-thirds from the office’s £1.5m budget.