Disability hate crime victims “being let down”

silhouette of female wheelchair user in corridor

Victims of disability hate crime are being let down by the criminal justice system, and progress to improve their experience of reporting offences has been too slow, an independent report has found.

A joint inspection of the police, probation and Crown Prosecution Service has uncovered a lack of understanding of what classifies as a disability hate crime and confusion around how this type of offence should be recorded and investigated. Although acknowledging some progress has been made, inspectors recommend all agencies must do more to ensure that disability hate crime is treated on an equal footing with other hate crimes, and that victims have the confidence to report crimes.

Living in a different world: A joint review of disability hate crime details the findings of a joint inspection by HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and HM Inspectorate of Probation. Inspectors wanted to find out how the police, CPS and probation trusts deal with crimes against disabled people. This involved reviewing how the three agencies work and revealed problems in the detection and recording of crimes targeted against people because of their disability.

The inspection found a lack of clarity and understanding as to what constitutes disability hate crime and confusion between policy definitions and the statutory sentencing provision contained within Section 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.  The report recommends a common definition that is universally recognised and applied at ‘ground level’ that is simple to interpret.

The immediate priority should be to encourage more people to come forward to report disability hate crime. The under reporting of disability hate crime remains a significant concern and needs to be addressed.  Whilst community engagement projects are currently undertaken by the police and CPS, these need to be jointly co-ordinated, and have specific aims.

Inspectors found that:

  • Many police forces do not have in place an approach that supported disabled victims from the point of call through to the case being considered at court, and that there were gaps in identification, communication and partnership working which all contributed to limitations in how these victims are dealt with.
  • CPS lawyers display a lack of clarity in identifying and analysing offences, and sometimes fail to obtain sufficient evidence from the police in order to identify disability hate crimes.
  • Disability hate crime must have a higher priority with the work of the probation trusts, and they should address needs of offenders who have committed disability hate crimes.

Chief Inspector of HM Crown Prosecution Service, Michael Fuller QPM, said on behalf of all inspectorates: “This report finds that in many ways Disability Hate Crime is the hate crime that has been overlooked.  The criminal justice system must therefore change to provide an improved service for those with disabilities.

A copy of the full report can be found on the Criminal Justice Joint Inspection website at www.hmcpsi.gov.uk/cjji

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