Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Disability hate crime prosecutions rise

The number of people being convicted of a disability hate crime rose in 2010/11, despite a fall in the number of cases being referred for charging.

Figures from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in its ‘Hate crimes and crimes against older people report 2010-11’ revealed that 79.8% of disability hate crime cases resulted in a conviction. The proportion of successful convictions increased last year after two years in decline. In all, there were 579 convictions in 2010/11 for disability hate crime – a 311% increase from the 141 made in 2007/8.

However, the number of cases referred by the police to the CPS for a charging decision fell in 2010/11 by more than 4% to 690 compared to the previous year. Nevertheless, the number of cases referred has increased by 147% since 2007/8. The most common crimes were offences against the person (41.6% of cases) and public order offences (12.5%). Homicide accounted for less than 1% of crimes. The CPS noted that there was a more significant range of other offence categories represented within disability hate crime prosecutions that for any other strand of hate crime.

The report said this perhaps reflects the exploitative nature of much disability hate crime. Elsewhere, the CPS report found that a higher proportion of women (24.2%) were prosecuted for disability hate crime than any other strand of hate crime. Meanwhile, the proportion of defendants aged 10-13 and 14-17 has declined; from  4.9% and 23.5% respectively in 2007/8 to 3% and 15.3% in 2010/11.

Stephen Brookes of the Disability Hate Crime Network said that any increase in the figures of prosecutions relating to disability hate crime were to be welcomed. “We are pleased that improvements in confidence building, leading to disabled people reporting criminal acts, is in part arising from Hate Crime Scrutiny Panels which create the identification of local priorities in partnership with the CPS, police and other agencies. Our aim must be to ensure that the figures continue to improve.”

Tom Madders, head of campaigns at The National Autistic Society, added: “Disability hate crime destroys lives. People with autism who struggle with face-to-face communication and interaction are often particularly at risk of being victims of crime due to their social naivety. In fact, 56% of adults with autism have experienced bullying or harassment due to their disability. “The Government made a strong statement of intent on disability hate crime by agreeing to increase the minimum sentence for disability-aggravated murders late last year, bringing it in line with murders aggravated by race and religion. But there is still a very long way before we see parity throughout the criminal justice system for disabled victims of crime.”

Director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, said: “All crime is unacceptable but offences that are driven by hostility or hatred based on personal characteristics are particularly damaging to any civilised society. “Outcomes in cases of hate crime are continuing to improve. We should be proud of the work we have done to secure this increase but I am determined that we build on this success.”

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