Learning Disability Today
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Criminal justice still failing victims of disability hate crime, review says

policeThe police, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the probation service are still failing people who experience disability hate crime, according to a new review.

The review, carried out by the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) and HM Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP), is the follow-up to a critical report from March 2013, which said police, prosecutors, and probation services had failed to bring about much-needed change over the past two years.

While some examples of good practice relating to awareness-raising at a national level were identified, neither the police nor the CPS has succeeded in significantly improving performance at an operational level, the review concluded.

The National Offender Management Service provided direction in July 2013 by issuing guidance to probation trusts, in the form of a framework to frontline staff. But this report has found that disability hate crime is not dealt with effectively overall by the probation service.

The original report, ‘Living in a different world: A joint review of Disability Hate Crime’ made 7 recommendations for police, CPS and probation trusts to implement within a specific timescale. These included the need for a single definition of disability hate crime and requiring police to ensure every opportunity is taken to identify victims. Police, prosecutors and probation officers were also recommended to undertake training around disability hate crime to improve their investigative, tribunal and rehabilitation skills.

In the follow-up, it was noted with concern that the number of reports of disability hate crimes to the police recorded by the Home Office remained low, at only 1,985 in 2013-14 and the gap between this and the Crime Survey for England and Wales estimated figure of 62,000 disability motivated hate crimes remained significant. The report said it was particularly concerned that in the Home Office reporting figures for disability hate crime for 2013-14, 9 police force areas had less than 10 reports.

It was also noted that the approach to delivering effective training in disability hate crime had been inconsistent and slow. “Without the required impetus it is not surprising that performance has not improved significantly,” the authors noted.

HMCPSI chief inspector, Kevin McGinty, said: “The report’s conclusions show that although the three criminal justice agencies have undertaken some initiatives to improve the way they deal with disability hate crime, the overall performance, acknowledged by all agencies, is still disappointing.

“The police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the probation service recognise that further work needs to be carried out to ensure disability hate crime victims are recognised and given the appropriate level of support and service by the criminal justice system.”

HMIC inspector, Dru Sharpling, added: “There has been work nationally to drive up reporting levels of disability hate crime and improve standards of service to victims but progress continues to depend on how well this is implemented locally. We did find some good practice, but criminal justice agencies did not consistently recognise disability hate crime and respond effectively.”

HMIP chief inspector, Paul Wilson, said: “We were pleased to see that the quality of information supplied by the CPS to probation officers writing court reports was good. This means that the nature of the hate crime can be taken into account by sentencers.

“Despite this, work with the small numbers of perpetrators of disability hate crime had not improved since the original inspection.”

Equality and Human Rights Disability Commissioner, Chris Holmes, said: “The Equality and Human Rights Commission has long been calling for tough action to end the ugly spectre of disability hate crime. It blights lives and makes disabled people feel unsafe in their own homes and communities. It is therefore very disappointing that the Inspectorates of Constabulary, Probation and Crown Prosecution Service should have found the criminal justice system continues to fail disabled people. Following our own landmark investigations into the problem, we are committed to continuing our efforts and call on other agencies to redouble their efforts to tackle the issue.”

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