More than 11,000 disability hate crimes were reported between April 2021 and March 2022 according to new research, more than double those recorded in 2017/18.
Two disability charities, Leonard Cheshire and United Response, found that reports of crimes involving an act of violence were also twice as high in 2021/22 than in 2017/18, while reports of online crimes were three times higher.
The charities warn that these figures may be just the tip of the iceberg, since not all incidents are reported, and are now calling for better support for disabled victims so they are able to better report hate crimes.
Just 1% of disability hate crimes reported to police were resulted in charges
Disability hate crimes reports have been steadily increasing over the last few years, yet the number that are referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) or result in charges remains at just 1%.
The charities explored the very low rates of CPS referrals and charges in 2021/22 and found that investigations most commonly ended due to evidential difficulties and victims withdrawing support for the investigation despite having a named suspect.
Leonard Cheshire and United Response say that variations in disability and diversity training for officers could be play a part in this, and there was only one police force in England and Wales that reported having a dedicated disability liaison officer.
Improve training for officers so victims are better supported
The charities now want “widespread investment in training among officers so that support for victims improves and they get the justice they deserve”.
“Government funding and action is vital so police have the resources they need to reduce prejudice and hate in our communities,” they said.
There should also be more support available for disabled victims so they have more confidence in the criminal justice process. This includes better information for victims who think they may have been a victim of hate crime.
A disabled woman, Melissa, from Lancaster, told the charities she felt uncertain whether to report an incident as a hate crime. She said: “I was afraid when a man took control of my wheelchair and wouldn’t release me for a mile, but was it a crime? Did this man who repeatedly heard me say “no” as I begged to be released cross a criminal line? Was it a hate crime?”
The two charities are now preparing a report, ‘Say No to Disability Hate Crime’, which will examine recent trends and make recommendations to police forces and the government to help curb these crimes.