Figures reveal that reports of violent disability hate crime continue to rise across England and Wales, with only one in 62 cases receiving a charge from police.
During the period of 2019/20, 7,300 disability hate crimes were reported to police but the number of police charges didn’t equate to the number of crimes reported.
Findings from the joint investigation are today released ahead of National Hate Crime Awareness Week, which starts on Saturday 10 October.
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 per cent 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
Nearly half (3,628) of the reports to police involved an element of violence – a rise of 16 per cent compared to earlier figures.
The element of crime and violence is having a detrimental impact on many disabled people and their loved ones.
Alice is a mother of seven children, and some of her children are autistic. As a family, they have experienced disability hate crime frequently.
“Most of our experiences have involved being yelled at or threatened when out as a family,” Alice explains.
“People call us offensive names like ‘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,” says Eva.
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.”
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.
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 here.