The number of people convicted of a disability hate crime has risen by 40.6% in the past year, new figures have revealed.
The Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) 8th Hate Crime Report revealed that the number of convictions for disability hate crime increased from 503 in 2014/15 to 707 last year.
In addition, the volume of cases referred to the CPS by the police for a charging decision increased from 849 in 2014/15 to 930 in 2015/16, an increase of 9.5%. The conviction rate remained broadly consistent over the two years at 75.1%.
The proportion of successful outcomes arising from guilty pleas fell slightly, from 66.1% in 2014/15 to 63.4% in 2015/16.
Overall, the CPS prosecuted 15,442 hate crimes – which includes racially and religiously motivated, homophobic and transphobic, and disability hate crime – in 2015/16, a 4.8% rise on the previous year (2014/15), which also saw a 4.7% increase from the year before that (2013/14).
The highest proportion of sentence uplifts were in racially and religiously aggravated crime cases, which comprise 84% of all hate crime prosecutions.
Alison Saunders, director of public prosecutions said, "My message is that a hate crime is exactly that – a crime – and will not be ignored. Hate crime creates fear and has a devastating impact on individuals and communities. Nobody should have to go about their day-to-day life in fear of being attacked.
"This report shows that more of these incidents are being recognised as hate crimes, so they are reported, investigated and prosecuted as such. It is important that this trend continues and no one should simply think that this abuse - on or offline - will be dismissed or ignored.
"More than four in five prosecuted hate crimes result in a conviction, which is good news for victims. Over 73% are guilty pleas – this means that more defendants are pleading guilty due to the strength of the evidence and prosecution case, so victims do not have to go through the process of a trial.
"The CPS has undertaken considerable steps to improve our prosecution of hate crime and we will continue this improvement."
The CPS also announced a commitment to consult publically in relation to revised policy statements on all strands of hate crime, which will reflect the CPS' approach to the prosecution of these crimes. Following this, CPS legal guidance for each strand will also be updated to reflect the developments.
In addition, further engagement will take place with community partners and stakeholders in the form of Local Scrutiny and Involvement Panels, and National Scrutiny Panels. The CPS will also liaise closely with the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs' Council to ensure that these commitments are delivered.
Solicitor general Robert Buckland said: "Tackling hate crime has always been a priority for the Government. We have worked extensively to improve our collective response to this issue and in particular to improve recording of hate crime, so that we now have a fuller picture of the scale of the problem."
Dan Scorer, head of policy at the learning disability charity Mencap, welcomed the CPS’ figures: “Hate crimes against disabled people have been under-reported, not been identified and not charged appropriately by police, meaning perpetrators have not been brought to justice. Prosecution rates have been as low as 1% in recent years, giving disabled people little confidence that reporting hate crime will lead to action being taken.
“The fact prosecutions for disability hate crimes have risen by over 40% in the last year is welcome and shows intent from the justice system that hate crimes against disabled people will not be tolerated.
“Nonetheless, the ongoing level of hate crime against disabled people is clear evidence of the levels of hostility and negative attitudes that people have to face.
“For too long the bullying, intimidation and harassment of disabled people has not been treated as seriously as crimes against other minority groups. Everyone working in the criminal justice system must take disability hate crime seriously and apply the full strength of the law.
“Alongside this, greater awareness of disability amongst the public is needed to tackle negative attitudes, and must be taught from an early age in schools, so children respect and value all their peers and understand why it is unacceptable to victimise someone because of their disability.”