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Friday, 5 September 2014

Police and disability hate crime

Guest blog piece via CarerWatch

What is Disability Hate Crime by Stephen Brookes

from – Stephen Brookes MBE
Disability and Equality Consultant
Coordinator – Disability Hate Crime Network

Hate crime and harassment are unfortunately a daily reality for 1 in 4 disabled people and when hate crime takes hold, it can have serious and even fatal consequences.

We are calling on Police and Crime Commissioners across England and Wales to stand by disabled people and commit to tackling disability hate crime as a priority, so that we don’t reverse the positive progress that has been made in recent years.

Police and Crime Commissioners must engage with the large disability community in the UK, not least because of the growing awareness of disabled people of recognising acts of hostility against them, and the increasing ability to report these crimes through third party reporting centres as well as a range of police and safeguarding processes.

While disability hate crime is not in itself a specific charge, there is a policy on dealing with cases which involve disabled people as victim. The policy, created and adopted by the Crown Prosecution Service and the Association of Chief Police Officers states that a disability hate case is ‘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’, and any such case brought to court brings an enhanced sentence capacity.
Over the last few years some high profile tragic cases have become well reported. The merciless hounding of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter Frankie which lead to her burning themselves to death in the car in a layby in Leicestershire on 23rd October 2007, and the failure of Leicestershire police, and local social services to act in unity while having discussed their pleas for help at over 20 meeting is a history we must not forget. Some people also know about David Askew of Manchester who died after 10 years of reported taunting by a succession of youths in his own home. Again police support and local services failed to protect a disabled person who became scared to leave home!

No Commissioner would wish that kind of public disaster to fall into his in tray.

But we must also realise that these are the spikes which are the worst case scenario. The good news is that through some strong multi agency work, the day to day abuse and hostility faced by 1 in 4 disabled people at a level which verges on targeted anti-social behaviour is being increasingly reported and acted upon by police forces who, similarly to the CPS see disability relates crimes as a real blight. It is so important that the increased confidence of disabled people to report disability related incidents is not undermined by the new PCC failing to engage at all levels and with all agencies over this matter.

We do know that the Labour leadership and a wide range of labour MP’s are fully supportive of the fight against hate crime. Ed Miliband made this point by stating in his message to the annual Hate Crime vigil in Trafalgar SQ -

The principles you express by your gathering go to the heart of what a fair society stands for: equality and liberty, and speaking out against injustice where it still pervades. I will keep working with you until we overcome the sort of hate and prejudice that harms us all.That so many people have joined here tonight shows that we are still restless for equality in this country, that everyone can play a role in bringing about change and that together we can overcome fear and violence and build a more just society.

But, for many PCC’s the importance of clearly challenging disability hate crime is simply that many incidents happen in areas of deprivation or in the public domain. The fact of an all too frequent association of disability hate crime with severe anti-social behaviour makes tackling it an essential part of the PCC’s task, and a part which communities will see as a step to protecting the more vulnerable members of society, a wish high on the agenda for those who will be electing the PCC.

For those who have not got in-depth knowledge of this type of crime, or who require a reminder of the implications, the following key resource sites or links while not exhaustive, will be very useful in gaining increased knowledge disability crime.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission report Hidden in Plain sight is a very important document in recognising the scope of disability hate crime.

True Vision is a Ministry of Justice information and reporting facility being promoted by police and third party reporting centres.

A 3 stage guidance to hate crime reporting, and the work of creating and operating a hate crime third party reporting centre can be found at

An interactive site of disabled people and legal/social practitioners involved in hate crime can be seen on the award winning disability hate crime network operated by Unite member Stephen Brookes.

While each Commissioner will have their own procedural approach, a working policy plan on talking disability hate crime should include the following key points, jointly agreed between police and disabled people.
 Developing a collective understanding of hate crime and focus on the impact on victims and what motivates offenders.
 Shape service delivery of all parties to hate crimes
 Increase reporting confidence and recording
 Reduce the number of hate crimes.
The plan should contain some aims and priorities as follows.
 Attitudinal change through a marketing plan to raise awareness interested parties victims and offenders.
 Increase confidence that the report will be dealt with.
 Use evidence that customers are satisfied with the service and support.
 Ensure a high quality risk accounted service taking vulnerability, and fear of repeat offending into account.
 Focus on risk by using appropriate and cost effective resources.
The conclusion to this brief is that to engage with challenging disability hate crime the PCC needs to work towards.
 Change in attitude and behaviour to disability hate crime.
 Focus on reduction in re-offending and repeat incidents.
 Protect and support the most vulnerable people in the disability community.

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