Reports of violent disability hate crime continue to rise

Black and white image of a woman with black hair holding her face in her hand

Reports of disability hate crime are up 12% across 36 regions in England and Wales in 2019/20, according to a joint investigation by Leonard Cheshire and United Response. But only 1.6% of cases resulted in police charging the perpetrators.

More than 7,300 disability hate crimes were reported to the police across England and Wales in 2019/20, yet only 1 in 62 cases actually received a charge from the police*.

The charities also discovered that nearly half (3,628) of the disability hate crime reports to police involved an element of violence, a rise of 16%.

Disability hate crime in public and online

1 in 10 of all reported disability hate crimes took place online, increasing by a staggering 46% in the last year.

However, these figures could just be the tip of the iceberg and with lockdown necessitating increased online communication, it is likely these figures will continue to rise next year.

Alongside the investigation, Disability Horizons worked with Leonard Cheshire to survey readers.

We discovered that 49% of 105 disabled people who have experienced a hate crime in public have been affected more than once, but less than five times.

Nearly 60% of people (59%) didn’t report the crime, while 21% made the staff where they were abused aware of the incident, and 19% spoke to the police.

For online hate crime, 51% of 43 disabled people experienced it between two and five times, and 11 people more than 10 times.

49% didn’t report it at all, but the highest proportion of people who did make a stand spoke to a moderator about it.

Findings from the investigations are released today ahead of National Hate Crime Awareness Week, which starts on Saturday 10th October.

Disability hate crime reported to the police

Two-thirds of the 36 police forces that responded to the Freedom of Information (FOI) request reported increases in disability hate crimes in 2019/20.

Just 12 forces reported drops in numbers for their region. And the shocking trend continued across the UK with an overall 11% increase in reports**.

Worryingly, while nearly 21 crimes were reported to the police every day in England and Wales during 2019/20, an average of 10 crimes per day involved an act of violence against a disabled person, including assault and harassment***.

Alice, from Monmouthshire, has seven children, a number of whom have autism. As a family, they have been the victim of disability hate crime frequently.

“Most of our experiences have involved being yelled at or threatened when out as a family,” she explained.

Words love not hate spelt out in scrabble letters on a white table

“People call us offensive names, such as ‘retard’ and ‘spastic’, and make us feel like we shouldn’t be part of the community.

Our neighbour has also physically intimidated us because they find my son frightening and don’t want him out in his own garden.

Now he not only feels isolated from the community but his own garden too. Being told that your son is frightening to other people because of his condition is pretty awful.”

12-year-old Eva from England, who has cerebral palsy, was a victim of hate crime on her first trip to the park with a friend.

“Two boys started cycling around us and teasing me about being in a wheelchair. It made me feel sad and a bit frightened.”

Eva immediately logged the incident online and received a call from the police within an hour. “The police really supported me and followed up with me a couple of times after the event. I felt like they really took it seriously and understood how it affected me.”

Victims of disability hate crime should report it to their friends or family or call the police if it is safe to do so. They can also report it online by visiting Report It.

Stamping out disability hate crime

Working together to raise awareness about the impact of disability hate crime, Leonard Cheshire and United Response commented: “As this abhorrent crime continues to rise year on year, it’s time for the authorities, Government and online platforms to start taking this damaging behaviour more seriously.

Offenders must face appropriate repercussions and be educated on the impact of their cowardly acts, while increased funding for advocacy services is also urgently needed.

Victims need to have better access to support across the entire reporting, investigative and judicial process.

This is the only way to make victims feel safe and confident in reporting these crimes to the police, helping lead to more concrete charges and ultimately convictions.

With online hate crime showing no signs of slowing down, provisions also need to be made to make the internet a less threatening place for disabled people with effective monitoring and recording of hateful activity.

Disabled people must also be involved in the development of digital strategies to help ensure this type of damaging behaviour doesn’t slip through the cracks.”

The two charities are encouraging people to show solidarity with victims of disability hate crime by pledging to call out hate crime on online platforms and be an ally to those that need support.

The research

*Only 1.6% of disability hate crimes in England and Wales received a police charge, postal requisition or court summons in 2019/20, a further drop from 2.7% in 2018/19.

**Police Scotland reported a 2.3% rise while the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) recorded a 35.8% rise in overall levels.

***69% of forces reported an increase in violent disability hate crimes and nearly half (3,628) of all reports to the police last year contained an element of violence.

There was a steep 46% rise in online disability hate crime in 2018/19.

Leonard Cheshire sent an FOI request to all 43 police forces across England and Wales in July 2020 requesting data from 18/19 and 19/20. 36 forces provided answers to the main 4 questions.

By Leonard Cheshire

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