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

Hate crime figures are the tip of an iceberg

Figures released this week show an increase in the number ofconvictions for disability hate crime, but successful convictionsthrow light on only a tiny part of a much bigger problem. First,the good news – it seems we’re getting a bit better at identifyingand pursuing hate crime. The Crown Prosecution Service has revealedan increase in the number of disability hate crime convictions forthe year 2010/11. At 579, the figure represents a 311% increasefrom the 141 made in 2007/8. In addition, 79.8% of disability hatecrime cases resulted in a conviction. This is the first rise in theproportion of convictions to cases in two years. But all this isstill just the tip of the iceberg. Only 690 cases were referred bythe police to the CPS for a charging decision in 2010/11, yet about9 in 10 people with a learning disability suffer verbal harassmentor violence due to their disability, according to Mencap. Given thenumber of people with learning disabilities in the UK – about 1million – the true scale of disability hate crime must far exceedthe official figures. Indeed, with public attitudes towards people with disabilitiesdeteriorating, hate crime may continue to rise. Sadly, manydisability hate crimes still go unreported to the police. Thereasons for this happening are well known. For instance, people areafraid that they will not be believed, that they will sufferretaliation, that they won’t be supported, or that theirimpairment will be used against them. Some people with learningdisabilities even just accept it as ‘part of everyday life’ and/ordon’t recognise it as hate crime. This needs to be challenged. Thepolice are taking disability hate crime increasingly seriously -something they have been criticised for not doing in the past.Indeed, the Metropolitan Police Service announced this week that ithas signed up to Mencap’s ‘Stand by me’ anti-disability hate crimecampaign. The Met was also careful to point out that signing up to’Stand by me’ is only one part of its mission to improve the way ittackles disability hate crime. The high proportion of cases thatresult in a conviction – once they’ve made it to court – showsthat, if people with a learning disability speak out, they will belistened to and, crucially – they will also get the justice theydeserve. Now, the emphasis needs to be on ensuring that people withlearning disabilities know what hate crime is – that it is not partof everyday life; that they know how to report it and to whom; andthat it is the responsibility of providers, support services andprofessionals to work with them on this issue. That way, the numberof successful convictions will continue to increase, and morepeople with learning disabilities will be free from the scourge ofhate crime.

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