22 February 2012 Disability Harassment and Hate Crime - Under Investigation

Disability hate crime, which can occur in many forms, constitutes a violation of a disabled person's human rights and dignity. Harassment and insults, abusive gestures or offensive letters, bullying at school or in a workplace, theft, damage to property or physical attacks could all be disability hate crimes if the offender demonstrates hostility towards a disabled person immediately before, during or after the crime is committed.

There is no official, legal definition of a disability hate crime. However, when prosecuting cases of disability hate crime, the Crown Prosecution Service adopts the following definition to help in dealing with such cases:

Any criminal offence, which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person's disability or perceived disability.

In 2011, 12,131 cases of racial or religious hate crime were prosecuted in England and Wales. In contrast, only 726 cases of disability hate crime were prosecuted, with 483 leading to successful convictions for disability hate crimes.

Many Trailblazers report:

  • being harassed and bullied by complete strangers and, in some cases, being physically abused and intimidated
  • that the bullying and mimicking of disabled people had become the norm and there was nothing that could be done about it
  • that they had developed coping mechanisms and would go out of their way to avoid persistent bullies
  • that they had little or no faith - or experience - that school teachers, employers or others in authority would address the issues if they reported them.

This new report, Under Investigation, reveals the very real issue of disability hate crime and the damage it can cause - and has caused - to the lives of young disabled people. This cannot continue and we are calling on the government, the police and all relevant authorities to take decisive measures to ensure that this behaviour is not tolerated.

Key findings

Our survey reveals that:

  • eight out of ten young disabled people who completed the survey say they have been harassed, humiliated or embarrassed by a person's attitude to them being a disabled person
  • 50 percent of young disabled who completed the survey say they have been intimidated because they are a disabled person
  • two out of three young disabled people who completed this survey have been taunted or verbally abused because they are disabled
  • 62 percent of young disabled people who completed the survey say they have been or may have been the victim of disability hate crime
  • four out of ten young disabled people who completed the survey and have been harassed or abused, or are currently being harassed or abused, have reported the incident to a person in authority
  • eight out of ten young disabled people who completed the survey think that the police do not take disability hate crime seriously enough
  • 79 percent of young disabled people who completed the survey think some disabled people may be dissuaded from reporting hate crimes because of the police's negative perceptions surrounding hate crime and disability
  • only 40 percent of young disabled people who completed the survey are aware that harsher penalties are given for crimes motivated or aggravated by a victim's disability.

Key recommendations

We are calling on the government, the police and all relevant authorities:

  • to support the amendment tabled by Paul Maynard MP and Kate Green MP to the proposed Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, which will result in the same sentencing starting point for murders motivated by hatred or hostility towards disabled or transgender victims as for those aggravated by race, religion and sexual orientation
  • to ensure the police and prosecutions services always identify and log whether the victim of a crime considers themselves disabled and whether their disability was a motivating factor in the crime
  • to promote and develop a helpline for people to call and report incidents of disability hate crime (this would need to be done in consultation with disability rights groups including Trailblazers and the number publicised well)
  •  to organise a national awareness campaign, in consultation with disability rights groups including Trailblazers, that helps define disability hate crime and represents disabled people in a non-patronising and representative way
  • to ensure the police inform disabled people that they should be reporting relevant incidents of bullying, harassment or humiliation specifically as disability-motivated incidents
  • to consult groups like Trailblazers and set up and publicise a victim support programme for disabled people who have been bullied or harassed in disability-motivated hate crimes
  • to improve awareness of the issues that affect young disabled people by running disability awareness training for police, and other relevant authorities, led by groups of young disabled people like the Trailblazers
  • to consider SMS and email reporting options so disabled people feel they can safely report incidents of disability hate crime
  • to increase the number of regional police forces to develop initiatives like those of the Metropolitan Police in London to reach out to disabled people locally
  • to ensure that more organisations, including the police, collaborate with groups like Trailblazers, to visit schools to raise awareness and educate children at an early age about disability harassment and hate crimes
  • to raise awareness through the media of successful prosecutions to restore the public's confidence in the system.

By publishing the experiences of Trailblazers campaigners, we intend to raise more awareness of the issue of disability hate crime and help address the bullying, harassment, mimicking, intimidation, physical and mental abuse and taunting that many disabled people in 21st century Britain - inexcusably - face.



1 Comment

  • Fiona Anderson replied on 8 Sep 2011 at 21:45
    Report abuse

    I think this is just fantastic. It's been long over-due! Way to go Trailblazers and the MDC :)

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