The number of disability hate crimes reported to the police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has risen by a third in the past year, figures from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) have revealed (14th September 2012).

In 2011, 2,095 disability hate crimes were reported, up from 1,569 in 2010. However, this may, in part, be down to more disabled people having the confidence to report crimes, according to the Disability Hate Crime Network (DHCN). 

A statement from the DHCN said the organisation believes the figures demonstrate progress in addressing issues of under-reporting of hate crime, “and reflect a large increase in confidence that disabled people will get a fair hearing and justice, albeit that the figures do show the tip of a very large iceberg. 

“We will continue our task in improving the confidence that disabled people should have in reporting incidents, and in a perverse way hope that the increase in numbers of reports continues to fully reflect the depth of this hideous crime.”

Overall hate crime figures – crimes based on race, religion, sexuality, transgender or disability – fell from 48,127 in 2010 to 44,519 in 2011. 

ACPO lead on hate crime, assistant chief constable Drew Harris, said: “While we would obviously want to see reductions in the incidence of all hate crime, we know that disability hate crimes have been significantly under-reported in the past. We remain committed to building confidence in and improving our recording practices, so that more victims get the service they deserve. We will do all in our power to continue with this positive improvement and I would encourage anyone who is a victim of hate crime to report this to their local police or use True Vision, our online reporting facility at www.report-it.org.uk.” 

Tom Madders, head of campaigns at the National Autistic Society, said: “Disability hate crime destroys lives. People with autism who struggle with face-to-face communication and interaction are often at particular risk of being victims of crime due to their social naivety. 72% of adults with autism who responded to a recent NAS survey said that there has been a time in their adult life when they have been bullied or discriminated against because of their autism. This is unacceptable. 

“Recent media articles labelling those who claim disability benefits as ‘scroungers’ have arguably contributed to increased resentment and abuse being directed at disabled people.  

“Everyone whether they are disabled or not has the right to live a life free from abuse and harassment.”