Katie Price has revealed just how important her fight to protect her disabled son from online trolls is, saying changing the law to tackle online abuse would be the biggest success of her career.
The TV personality on Tuesday detailed the onslaught of abuse her son Harvey has faced as she addressed the House of Commons on what is International Safer Internet Day.
Harvey is partially blind, autistic and has Prader-Willi syndrome, and has been targeted by trolls. The 15-year-old has, according to Price, also been “mocked” for the colour of his skin, his size and his disabilities, and is the only one of her five children to be targeted.
Price, along with her mother Amy, gave evidence to the Petitions Committee who have launched an investigation into online abuse following a petition by the reality TV star that gained over 220,000 signatures, before closing in May 2017.
Having told how she has faced decades of abuse since first appearing in the media age 17 - almost 23 years ago - Price said: “This isn’t about me... love me, or hate me.. I’m here to protect others and I’m glad. It might have taken me 25 years to achieve something by sitting here and making a new law.”
“I’m here because it started with Harvey and his disabilities, but this will help everybody,” she said, having earlier vowed to be her son’s “voice” and “protect him”.
Harvey was targeted on Twitter last year by an unnamed 19-year-old who received a caution from Sussex Police.
Price’s petition calls for online abuse to be a specific criminal offence and for a register of offenders to be created. She also urged internet providers to do more to tackle online abuse and to stop people using fake accounts.
Her main frustration, however, is with the lack of legislation protecting victims of online abuse. Price detailed how “disgusted” and “embarrassed” police had been at the abuse her son had faced and how little they could do about it.
“It (a law change) would stop so many deaths, harassment... some of you MPs have also had it,” Price said.
Harvey’s grandmother said trolls wouldn’t “do it face to face... they hide behind computers, because they know they can get away with it”.
“It is really hurtful, and even for my other grandchildren - they see it about their brother, and they know he is special needs but I think they take it personally because he is their brother and they can’t protect him,” she said.
Amy added: “Katie has always been in the limelight and always had people say things about her... and then I used to get really angry as a mum.
“When it started happening to Harvey, and because I know he is so inoffensive and cannot defend himself, it makes me so angry and it impacts on all of us.
“It does upset me, you do feel emotional about it. We need to do something about it.”
The hearing also heard from several disability charities and advocates who detailed the importance of social media to people who are “marginalised and isolated” and called for greater legal protections for those with disabilities.
While it is considered a hate crime to abuse someone because they are disabled, the laws around it are not as stringent as those protecting racial abuse, which protects against abuse both on and offline.
Hate crimes against the disabled rose by 53% in 2016/2017 according to Home Office figures released in October.
The Petitions Committee will later decide what recommendations to make to the Government which could include recommendations for changes to the law.
Price’s petition reads: “Trolling is a major problem in this day and age. People of all ages and background suffer every day, including my family - especially my son Harvey. I have tried my best to expose people and even had two arrested but nothing was done and there were no repercussions or penalties for this behaviour.”
Chair of the Committee, Helen Jones MP said Price’s petition “has brought to Parliament an issue that has not been widely discussed – how online abuse affects people with disabilities and their families”.
Jones added: “The Government and Parliament are looking at how to tackle online abuse, and we’d like to ensure that the particular issues faced by disabled people are at the heart of those discussions.”
Former Tory minister John Whittingdale and Labour MP Stella Creasy have backed Price’s petition, with Creasy earlier telling MailOnline: “What happened to Katie’s son is horrific and completely unacceptable.
“My frustration as somebody who has always experienced this is all too often it seems an issue about malicious communications, actually there is legislation around harassment.
“The police and the CPS need to be much better at using the harassment legislation and put the victim at the centre of it.”