Paris Brown Twitter scandal is 'black mark' for police and crime commissioners

The scandal of offensive tweets posted by the UK's first youth police and crime commissioner will leave 'a black mark' against the role more widely, it has been claimed.

Paris Brown and Ann Barnes: Under fire
Paris Brown and Ann Barnes: Under fire

The 17-year-old issued a broadcast apology yesterday after The Mail on Sunday claimed that she had posted a series of offensive tweets.

The scandal erupted a week after 17-year-old Paris Brown was chosen to be the first person given the £15,000-a-year role in the UK by Kent Police and local Crime Commissioner Ann Barnes.

Matt Cartmell, director of comms for the PRCA, said those behind the decision ‘need to get up to speed’ when it comes to vetting the social media output of candidates likely to be in the spotlight.

‘It’s understandable that this has received such coverage, and the media’s gaze is likely to be fairly negative on the issue in general because in the past the idea of police commissioners has been widely criticised. This is likely to leave a black mark against it, ’ he said.

Included in the tweets, some of which are understood to have been made as recently as a few months ago, are references to sex, drinking and drug taking.

They also included remarks on race and sexuality. One, referring to the television show Made in Chelsea, said: ‘Everyone on Made in Chelsea looks like a f****** fag.’

Barnes, one of a number of police commissioners elected for the first time in November, went on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning to defend Brown.

Admitting that Brown's conduct on Twitter was ‘deeply offensive,’ she claimed that young people ‘say and do appalling things’ online.

Cartmell praised Barnes’ defence of Brown, but added: 'While it is admirable that Ann Barnes has backed Paris Brown rather than bowing to media pressure, the real issue is whether the correct procedures were carried out when she was appointed. A full vetting of a candidate’s social media activities should be second nature for an public-facing appointment of this kind.'

Chris Woods, head of digital at Hanover, also warned against the police preventing Brown from tweeting in the future.

Emphasising the importance of guidelines when it comes to social media output, he said: ‘The way to turn this around and go forward on it is not to cut off her use of social media, as her use of it is a key way of engaging with young people. She needs to be part of showing how social media can help police listen and relate to people.’

Currently, Kent Police press office is referring any enquiries about the issue to the press team for Barnes. It had not responded to PRWeek's requests for comment at the time of publication.

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