The Macpherson Report: Twenty-two years on Contents

3Racist incidents and victims of crime

[…] from 1993 until about 2006, that level of trust was never there. Initially, I wanted to trust and I wanted to believe, because I thought that they would see Stephen’s death as something so horrendous that they would want to do something to solve it, but they weren’t interested. All our meetings and our visits did not give me any hope that they really understood what we were going through. We were more or less treated as if we were the criminals, not the victims of Stephen’s murder. That carried on over the years.

Source: Baroness Lawrence, evidence to the Home Affairs Committee, 5 February 201999

76.In 1993, Stephen Lawrence, his family and Stephen’s friend, Duwayne Brooks were all victims of a racist crime. The Macpherson report was highly critical of the police investigation, the lack of understanding of racist crimes, and the treatment of Duwayne Brooks and Stephen Lawrence’s family. It made far reaching recommendations on the tackling of racist crimes and the monitoring of racist incidents, and the support that should be given to victims and their families. This chapter therefore focuses on racist incidents and crimes, the way they are currently dealt with by police, and the support for Black and minority ethnic victims of crime today.

The Macpherson report’s findings and conclusions

77.The Macpherson report cited data from 1997/98 which showed that 13,880 racist incidents had been recorded but argued that “the number of incidents is undoubtedly in excess of these figures” and drew attention to “distrust and dissatisfaction with the police and other agencies in the investigation of such incidents leading to a disinclination to report”. Sir William wrote that:

The allegation is that the Police Service and other agencies regularly ignore and belittle such incidents. Over and over again we were told that Black victims reporting such incidents were “turned into” perpetrators, and that the “White” version of such incidents was all too readily accepted by police officers and others.100

78.The report recommended major changes to the way that the police recorded and defined racist incidents, defining them as “any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person”, in place of the previous practice of relying on the perceptions of police officers as to whether an incident was racist or not.101 It also recommended the creation of “a comprehensive system of reporting and recording of all racist incidents and crimes” as well as steps to “encourage the reporting of racist incidents and crimes”.102

79.The Macpherson report was also highly critical of the way in which Stephen’s parents, Neville and Doreen Lawrence and Duwayne Brooks were treated throughout the course of the investigation into Stephen Lawrence’s murder. It noted that, in his evidence to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, Dr Lawrence said that it was clear to him that “the police come in with the idea that the family of Black victims are violent criminals who are not to be trusted”.103 Similarly, the report noted that Mr Brooks was at no time treated as a victim by anyone or any police officer.104 The report concluded that Mr Brooks’ colour and stereotyping as “a young Black man exhibiting unpleasant hostility and agitation” contributed to “the collective failure of those involved to treat him properly and according to his needs”.105 These findings were echoed by Baroness Lawrence, who told us that her family were treated as if they were the “criminals, not the victims of Stephen’s murder” and that this treatment “carried on over the years”.106

Reporting and recording of racist incidents since the Macpherson report

80.Following the publication of the Macpherson report, the Government implemented the recommendations on the definition and recording of racist incidents with Home Office (subsequently Ministry of Justice) statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System including racist incidents, referring—as recommended by the Macpherson report—to “any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person”.107 This was a major change to the definition of a racist incident and has become widely adopted and used by other organisations beyond policing. In 2000/01, 53,121 racist incidents were recorded across all police force areas in England and Wales.108 This figure fluctuated year on year and in 2008/09 it remained relatively similar, at 55,714 incidents.109 However, the trajectory varied across forces with the Metropolitan Police experiencing the most significant downward trend in the country. The Metropolitan Police reported 20,628 incidents in 2000/01 compared with half of this (10,190) in 2008/09.110

81.In 2007 the police, Crown Prosecution Service, Prison Service (now the National Offender Management Service) and other agencies that make up the criminal justice system agreed a common definition of monitored hate crime to cover 5 ‘strands’, including race but also including disability, gender-identity, religion and sexual orientation. Primarily, this was to ensure a consistent working definition to allow accurate recording and monitoring.

82.The Home Office published the racist incidents data series until March 2016, when collection was discontinued due to the “greater quality, development and depth of the police recorded hate crime [sic]” and on the basis that “the hate crime time series is now sufficiently established”.111 The final data release, for 2015/2016, found that the number of racist incidents recorded by police remained relatively stable between 2011/12 and 2013/14, before increasing by 10% in 2014/15 and a further 8% in 2015/16, reaching a total of 58,197 racist incidents.112

83.Today, rather than being contained in a single time series, race hate crime statistics in England and Wales are found in two separate statistical releases: the Crime Survey of England and Wales (CSEW) and the Police Recorded Crimes series.

Crime Survey

84.The CSEW is considered to be a more reliable indicator of long-term crime trends than the Home Office Police Recorded Crime series, particularly for the more common types of crimes experienced by the public. However, Crime Survey figures do not cover all crimes which may have a hate crime component, such as homicides and public order offences (public order offences accounted for 53% of police recorded hate crime in 2019–20).113 The Crime Survey also does not record incidents directed against those under the age of 16.114

85.Crime Survey data indicate that, over the longer-term, the number of race hate crime incidents has fallen in England and Wales. 151,000 race hate crimes were recorded by the CSEW in the combined 2007/08 and 2008/09 surveys, compared to 104,000 in the combined 2017/18 to 2019/20 surveys, a fall of 31%.115 This compares to a fall in incidents across all strands of hate crime of 38% over the same period.116 Race continues to be the hate crime strand most commonly perceived as an offender’s motivation for committing a crime, accounting for 55% of incidents.117 From these combined surveys, one in 500 adults were estimated to be victims of a race hate crime in the 12 months prior to interview. White adults were less likely to be victims of race hate crimes compared with other ethnic groups.

Police-recorded crime

86.The fall in race hate crime recorded by the CSEW over the longer-term contrasts with the Home Office police recorded race hate crime series. Police recorded hate crime statistics are only available from 2011/12 onwards. Since then, race hate crimes recorded by the police have risen every year and more than doubled from 32,969 in 2011/12 to 76,070 in 2019/20.118

87.The Home Office cites two possible reasons for the increases seen in recent years: improvements in crime recording by the police; and growing awareness of hate crime. However, as well as these drivers, the Home Office also suggests that:

there appear to have been short-term genuine rises in hate crime following certain trigger events such as the EU Referendum in June 2016 and the terrorist attacks in 2017.119

88.The Home Office hate crime release for 2019/20 also included data on provisional trends in racially or religiously aggravated offences to July 2020 under covid-19 restrictions. In March, April and May, the level of these offences in 2020 was lower than the previous year. This trend is mirrored in the level of non-aggravated offences and reflects the reduction in crime during the first national covid-19 lockdown.

89.However, the number of racially or religiously aggravated offences in June 2020 was a third higher (34%) than in June 2019. Increases were seen across most forces, with 27 forces seeing an increase of a quarter (25%) or more. The level of these offences remained high in July. The Home Office suggests that the increases in June and July 2020 were likely to be related to the Black Lives Matter protests and far-right groups counter-protests following the death of George Floyd.120

Online hate crime

90.In more recent years, as online communication and social media have grown, we have also seen an escalation of hate crime—including race hate crimes—and racism online. However, the data in this area is limited. From April 2015 it was mandatory for police forces to apply the online flag for offences121 committed in full or in part through a computer, computer network or other computer enabled device.122 However, the online flag is underused by police forces and, as a result of uncertainty over the quality of these statistics, an analysis of them has been conducted for 2017/18 only. Statistics related to online hate crime collected by the Home Office for 2017/18 used data provided by 30 police forces.123

91.The data on online hate crime by strand indicated that, of the 1,784 offences recorded, more than half (52%) were race hate crimes.124 Of the race hate crimes recorded, the vast majority (79%) were violence against the person without injury offences (a category which includes the sending of malicious communications), and the other significant category was public order offences (17.5%).125 The statistics show the proportion of all recorded hate crimes that were online was 2% in 2017/18.126

92.Our predecessor Committee was told that the “overriding issue” facing the police service is that of capacity, particularly when it comes to online hate crime. Assistant Chief Constable Hamilton told the Committee’s Hate Crime inquiry that the police service is “behind the curve in terms of the scale, capacity and volume of this”, and that “All police forces around the world are struggling just to catch up speed with the level of criminality that now occurs online”.127 Online hate crimes require complex evidential recovery processes, and there are considerable backlogs for cyber examinations.128 Investigations are complicated by the fact that online hate crimes can be committed by one person or many people against one victim or numerous victims, and can cross multiple police force areas. Some witnesses warned that the police’s inability to handle the scale and volume of modern hate crime could lead to diminished confidence in the police, both online and offline.129

93.The Committee, as part of its work on hate crime and online harms, has repeatedly identified examples of racist abuse, race hate crimes and far right extremism on social media platforms which have not been removed. We have put these examples to major social media companies in a number of evidence sessions over several years, most recently on 20 January 2021. We have not included consideration of the role of social media companies in this report. The Government has published proposals for legislation to tackle online harms, about which the Committee has separately taken evidence but which it has not included as part of this inquiry.

Victims of racist crimes

94.The risk of being a victim of personal hate crime in the combined 2017/18 to 2019/20 Crime Survey of England and Wales (CSEW) was higher for people with Black/African/Caribbean/Black British backgrounds than any other specific group, and five times higher than it was for White people.130

95.Based on the combined 2017/18 to 2019/20 surveys, victims of hate crime are notably less satisfied with the police response than victims of other crimes: 55% of hate crime victims were very or fairly satisfied, compared with 66% of all crime victims, and 27% of hate crime victims were very dissatisfied, compared to only 17% of all crime victims.131 These figures are not disaggregated by hate crime strand so we do not have separate information on victims of racist crimes. Assistant Chief Constable Hamilton acknowledged in evidence to our predecessors that “there is a lot of work to be done” on this issue.132

96.The same surveys (2017/18 to 2019/20) show that victims of hate crime were less likely than other victims to think the police had treated them fairly or with respect: in 70 per cent of hate crime incidents the victims thought the police treated them fairly, compared with 79 per cent of incidents of CSEW crime overall. Similarly, in 84 per cent of incidents of hate crime, victims thought the police treated them with respect, compared with 90 per cent of incidents of CSEW crime overall. These patterns were similar to previous years.133

Assessment of police response to racist crimes

97.In its 2009 report, The Macpherson Report—Ten Years On, the Home Affairs Committee concluded that:

We were impressed by the evidence we heard about improvements in the investigation of race crimes and of critical incidents involving members of ethnic minority communities. Police leaders have shown a clear commitment to increasing awareness of race as an issue throughout the service.134

98.Over the course of our inquiry and in the Committee’s wider work, we found an enduring commitment on the part of senior police officers to recognise and address the seriousness of race hate crimes.

99.In October 2018, the Metropolitan Police’s national lead for counter-terrorism, Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, told the previous Committee that “I think stopping hate crime is one of the most important things police officers can do”:

There has been quite a lot of media comment about how we have been diverted towards hate crime. I think that media comment is largely around people who have never experienced it or have not experienced it on a daily basis. They do not understand how pernicious it is, and they probably do not understand what the long-term consequences of it are, which is a divided society.135

100.In written evidence, the Metropolitan Police pointed to the “steady increase in the reporting of racist hate crime incidents and offences in London” as evidence of “a show of faith by the public in the MPS’s willingness to take hate crime seriously and to support victims through the reporting process”. While identifying improvements that had been made, the submission stated that the Metropolitan Police:

remain vigilant that many hate crime offences still go unreported. We have more work to do to ensure that both victims and witnesses come forward and will continue to engage community groups and organisations to address underreporting.136

101.Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, in written evidence on behalf of the NPCC, pointed to “the response to racist, and latterly other hate crime” as “amongst the most positive legacy outcomes of the [Macpherson] Inquiry”. As a result of the changes made:

The UK reports significantly higher levels of recorded hate crime than any other state, some of which report single figures […] I do not believe that this is evidence of the UK being a more hostile community but instead, that it demonstrates a more progressive response to hate crime”.

Despite this progress, Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton concluded that “we cannot afford to be complacent”.137

102.Melanie Field, Executive Director of Corporate Strategy and Policy at the Equality and Human Rights Commission told the Committee that she welcomed the changes that had been made and John Azah, the Director of the Kingston Racial Equality Council, told the Committee that improvements to the recording of racist incidents had been part of the “tremendous change” that occurred in the first ten years after the publication of the Macpherson report.138 Mr Azah saw progress in:

the recording of racist incidents that became hate crimes and incidents, the transparency really within policing, where before the Lawrence inquiry police officers, the police service, barely shared any information with anybody and as a result of the inquiry the services opened up their services.139

103.However, in 2018, HMICFRS published a report called Understanding the Difference which looked at the initial police response to hate crime and identified evidence that some forces were not flagging racially or religiously aggravated offences as hate crimes.140 Moreover, in one force an audit of 700 hate crimes concluded that as many as half of the religious flags were incorrect, and should have been recorded as race instead.141 Despite good work in a number of forces, the report raised concern about the “overall approach to hate crime”. It concluded that it “did not see a uniform commitment by the force leaders to treat victims of hate crime as a priority”.142

104.Accurate analyses of developments in hate offending have to date been hindered by inadequacies in the data collected on hate crime incidents, victims and offenders. The Home Office only began collecting information from the police on the perceived religion of victims of hate crime in 2016 and recording the religion of victims only became mandatory in 2017–18. There is no similar disaggregation for race hate crimes, and therefore it is not possible to ascertain the trends affecting particular racial or ethnic groups.

105.The Macpherson report brought about a transformation in the way police recognise racist incidents and deal with racist crimes, and we found a strong commitment from senior police officers to maintain the progress that had been made. This seismic change is one of the most important legacies of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry and the vital work of those who fought to make sure the inquiry happened.

106.However, we are concerned about the variability in police force responses at a local level: the commitment to tackling hate crime needs to be universal and consistent across the police service. We are also very concerned that the victims of hate crimes are less likely to feel that they are treated with respect by the police and less likely to be satisfied with the outcome of a police investigation than they are in other crimes. Twenty-eight years on from the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, the Home Office and the NPCC need to ensure that the police today are taking clear action to support the victims of racist crimes properly.

107.We are concerned that the police once again lack the information and data they need to address these issues properly. More public information is needed on race hate crimes, the impact on different communities and the experiences of victims. The Home Office must commission research into the reasons behind lower levels of confidence among hate crime victims and ensure that figures on the victims can be broken down by monitored hate crime strand. Police forces also must improve the recording of hate crime offences so that data is accurate and consistent and must collect better information on the victims of hate crime.

108.The Government’s disaggregation of religious hate crimes for different religions is welcome, as this provides valuable detail and insight. We believe that race hate crimes should be similarly disaggregated, so as to understand the breakdown of offences by ethnicity. Other forms of police data are already provided in this way. We call on the Government to work with police forces to implement the disaggregation of race hate crime so as to be able to publish results in the Home Office’s hate crime statistics release for 2022–23.

109.The drop in racist incidents and crimes in the crime survey, and the increase in crimes that are reported to the police, is welcome and suggests that there is both an increased awareness of hate crime and increased confidence in reporting such crimes. However, statistics indicating that more than 75,000 race related incidents were recorded in England and Wales in 2019/20—a number which is likely to be an underestimate—is clear evidence that race hate remains a very significant problem in our society.143

110.Our greatest concern going forward is that the Government and police forces are being left behind by the rise of online racism and racist crimes as the rise of social media means patterns of race hate crime are changing. Currently the police do not have the digital capacity, training or systems in place to be able to keep up with monitoring, investigating and charging serious cases of racist and hate crimes committed online.

111.Social media companies and platforms need to do far more to tackle online racist crime, incitement and abuse. The Committee has been raising these issues with the major social media companies for four years and, while some changes have been made, progress has been far too slow.

112.We welcome the Government legislating for online safety and we continue to consider these issues separately from this report. But we are concerned that much more also needs to be done around the policing response.

113.Alongside the legislative and regulatory proposals that the Government is developing for social media companies, the Home Office and National Police Chiefs’ Council should draw up a new strategy for policing hate crime online including identifying the skills, training and digital infrastructure that police forces urgently need.

114.We agree with Neil Basu that the links between hateful content online, radicalisation and extremism as well as the devastating impact online hate crimes can have on individuals mean that it needs to be taken extremely seriously. There is a responsibility on the Government, the police service, social media companies and all of us in our communities to work more effectively to tackle racist hate crimes and hateful extremism online.

Investigation of crimes and victim support

115.The Macpherson report recommended a number of changes relating to the investigation of crimes, including specific recommendations regarding victim support and family liaison.

116.The Metropolitan Police told us in written evidence that “the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry was a catalyst for change in how the MPS supports the families of victims”. As a result, the MPS in March 2019 had approximately 1,000 fully trained Family Liaison Officers (FLOs) who are:

responsible for ensuring effective communication, based on trust and confidence, between families and police investigations. FLOs are primarily investigators, with a core aim to balance the needs of a victim’s family with the requirement to gather material and preserve the integrity of the investigation.144

117.In oral evidence, John Azah, Director of the Kingston Racial Equality Council, described “the huge improvement of the Family Liaison service that supported families who had suffered critical incidents”.145

BME victims of crime

118.In March 2020 the Home Office published a report setting out the main trends and drivers of homicide in England and Wales. While the majority of suspects and victims of homicide are White, Black people are disproportionately represented as a proportion of the population: they are five times more likely to be victims and seven times more likely to be suspects of homicide.146 The Ministry of Justice’s 2018 report Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System, which sets out the typical experiences of different ethnic groups in England and Wales, stated that Black children seem to be disproportionately at risk of homicide compared to other groups of children.147 The 2016 version of the report focused more widely on crime, and showed that while, on average, 3.7% of the population were a victim of at least one personal crime, when broken down by ethnicity 7.4% of people of Mixed ethnicity were victims of crime and 5% of Black people were victims of at least one crime, compared to 3.6% of White people.148

Figure 2: Percentage of adults who were victims once or more of a CSEW personal crime by ethnicity and personal crime type, England and Wales, combined years ending March 2015 to March 2017149

119.During our inquiry young people told us the perception that mostly Black and Asian people commit crimes is a stereotype.150 One young person discussed how White and Black perpetrators of crime could be presented differently in the media, but also treated differently in the courts.151 This media misrepresentation was also referenced by Nick Glynn from Open Society Foundations, in relation to portrayals of Black people’s drug use.152 Nick Glynn told us it was important to look at the media portrayal of BME individuals and how this influenced people’s perceptions, including assumptions that Black people use drugs at a higher rate than those White people, which is not supported by the evidence.153 Similarly, Katrina Ffrench argued there was “a really deep-seated psychological question” to be addressed which was to understand how people view and think about “people that do not look like them”. She said that “Racism is not, ‘I hate you. You are thick’; it is, ‘I do not trust you. You are up to no good. Therefore, I need to police you in a certain way’”.154

120.Dr Long, a senior lecturer at Leeds Beckett University, told us that when “Black” and “Black mixed race people” are the victims of a non-hate crime, they are not treated as victims, but often as suspects.155 Dr Long set out evidence from her research which suggests that “Negative experiences as the victim of crime has significant implications for Black and Black mixed race people’s trust and confidence in the police”.156 She argued these negative experiences “are significant in determining whether or not they would contact the police in the future”.157 Furthermore, she argued that the experience of victims of minor crimes, including a “failure to take the victim seriously”, and being treated as a suspect based on “racialised stereotypes”, could have more of a psychological impact on the victim than the crime itself.158 We consider the issues of racial stereotyping, unconscious bias and racism further in chapter eight.

121.The increased support for all victims of crime and the work of Family Liaison Officers as a result of the Macpherson report are important wider legacies of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry. However, we are extremely concerned that, twenty-two years on from the publication of the Macpherson report, some Black men and women still report that they feel they have been treated as suspects not victims and that this reduces the likelihood of them reporting crime to the police in future. The police response to a victim of crime must never be influenced by assumptions based on their ethnicity, or racial stereotyping. The Home Office and National Police Chiefs’ Council must work with the Victims Commissioner to commission research into the experience of BME victims of crime and they must set out a specific plan of action to ensure there is proper support for BME victims of crime.

100 The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, report of an inquiry by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, Cm 4262-I, p361, para. 45.11, February 1999.

101 The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, report of an inquiry by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, Cm 4262-I, p362, para. 45.17, recommendation 12, February 1999.

102 The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, report of an inquiry by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, Cm 4262-I, p376, recommendation 15 and 16, February 1999.

103 The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry report, report of an inquiry by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, Cm 4262-I, February 1999, para. 4.4.

104 The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry report, report of an inquiry by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, Cm 4262-I, February 1999, para.5.13.

105 The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry report, report of an inquiry by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, Cm 4262-I, February 1999, para.5.12.

111 Home Office, Hate crime, England and Wales, 2015/16,13 October 2016, pp.3 and 16.

112 Home Office, Hate crime, England and Wales, 2015/16, 13 October 2016, p16.

113 Source: HC Library, Hate Crime Statistics, CBP 8537, 10 December 2020, p8.

114 Home Office, Hate Crime, England and Wales, 2019/20, 13 October 2020, p7.

115 Home Office, Hate Crime, England and Wales, 2019/20, appendix tables; 28 October 2020, Appendix Table 7.

116 Home Office, Hate Crime, England and Wales, 2019/20, appendix tables; 28 October 2020, Appendix Table 7.

117 Home Office, Hate Crime, England and Wales, 2019/20, appendix tables; 28 October 2020, Appendix Table 7.

118 Crime Survey figures do not cover all crimes which may have a hate crime component, such as homicides and public order offences while not all the offences identified by the Crime Survey have been reported to the police. It is also worth noting that the number of hate crimes recorded by the police may rise due to other factors such as improved recording practices, HC Library, Hate Crime Statistics briefing paper, 10 December 2020, p7’.

120 Home Office, Annex to Hate Crime, England and Wales, 2019 to 2020, p4, 28 October 2020.

121 Gov.uk Counting Rules Crime Flags, Home Office Counting Rules for Recorded Crime, p5 April 2021. An offence should be flagged where any element of the offence was committed online or through internet-based activities (e.g. through email, social media, websites, messaging platforms, gaming platforms or smart devices). This flag is to help understand the volume and nature of offences committed online.

122 Home Office, Hate Crime, England and Wales, 2017/18, 16 October 2018, pp30–4.

123 Home Office, Hate Crime, England and Wales, 2017/18, 16 October 2018, pp30–4.

124 Home Office, Hate Crime, England and Wales, 2017/18, 16 October 2018, p33.

125 Home Office, Hate crime, England and Wales, 2017 to 2018: data tables. Figure A1 and Figure A4, 16 October 2018.

126 Home Office, Hate Crime, England and Wales, 2017/18, 16 October 2018, p30.

135 Q85.

136 MPR0054, Metropolitan Police Service.

137 MPR0043, NPCC.

138 Q73.

139 Q73.

140 In its 2018 report, p7, Understanding the Difference: The initial police response to hate crime, HMICFRS explains that “The police identify the different motivating factors by placing a marker on incident and crime records. These markers are known as ‘flags’”.

144 MPR0054 the Metropolitan Police Service.

145 Q73.

147 Ministry of Justice, Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System 2018, November 2019, p.12.

148 Ministry of Justice, Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System 2016, November 2017, p. 16–17.

149 Ministry of Justice, Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System 2016, November 2017 p. 17, Figure 3.02: Percentage of adults who were victims once or more of a CSEW personal crime by ethnicity and personal crime type, England and Wales, combined years ending March 2015 to March 2017 (Source: Table 3.05).

150 MPR0068, Anonymous submission, Q57.

151 MPR0068 Anonymous Submission, Q57 and Q61.

152 MPR0059, Open Society Foundations. para.5.

153 MPR0059, Open Society Foundations.

155 Dr Lisa Long (MPR0028) para 1.1.

156 Dr Lisa Long (MPR0028) para 1.4.

157 Dr Lisa Long (MPR0028) para 1.4.

158 Dr Lisa Long (MPR0028) paras 1.4–1.5.




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