People who commit murder in disability hate crime attacks will face life sentences in prison with a starting tariff of 30 years, the Ministry of Justice has announced.

The Ministry of Justice plans to amend the Criminal Justice Act 2003 so that murders motivated by hatred or hostility towards disabled or transgender victims will have the same starting point as for murders aggravated by race, religion and sexual orientation.

This will double the current starting point for disability and transgender hate crime murders. The changes will be made as part of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill currently progressing through Parliament. Amendments covering the new changes will be brought forward at Lords Committee stage. This move has been welcomed by disability charities.

For example, Sarah Lambert, head of policy at the National Autistic Society, said: “People with disabilities, including those with autism, have the right to lead lives free from fear and violence. Sadly, 56% of adults with autism have experienced bullying and harassment, a recent NAS survey found. This is unacceptable, and up until now there has been a systemic failure by authorities to acknowledge the extent of the problem and treat it with the severity it deserves. “The fact that previously perpetrators of disability hate-crime murders could not expect to receive as long a sentence as those who commit other hate-crime murders, trivialises crime against disabled people, and sends the message to society that disabled people aren’t as important as others, when in fact they’re the most vulnerable group in society. If the Government is serious about tackling disability hate crime, these proposals to double prison sentences must be taken forward. And sentences must also be increased for disability hate-crime more broadly.”