Just 1% of disability hate crime reports resulted in a charge or Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) referral in England and Wales in 2022/23, according to new research.
This new research has prompted calls for the government to rethink its plan not to publish the hate crime strategy which was promised in 2021.
Half of the reported crimes involved violence
The data has been published by two charities, Leonard Cheshire and United Response, following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to all police forces in England and Wales.
Of the 43 police forces, 36 provided figures on disability hate crimes. The data from these police forces shows there were 10,740 reports of disability hate crime in 2022/23, although the actual figure is likely to be even higher.
In total, roughly half of these reports involved violence, while around one in 10 (1,300) involved online forms of hate crime.
Disability hate crime reports are down by 3.7% from the record numbers of incidents in 2021/22, but the charities note they are still higher than pre-pandemic figures.
They are also particularly concerned about the low rates of prosecution, with just 132 cases (1.2%) resulting in a charge or CPS referral.
Difficulties gathering evidence, victim withdrawal, and difficulties identifying a suspect were the three most common reasons for victims to go without redress.
Not all hate crimes are reported
Leonard Cheshire and United Response are now calling on the government to publish its hate crime strategy that was promised in 2021.
These calls come following the government’s decision to merge its anti-hate crime strategy into a wider plan to tackle general crime.
The charities say this combined strategy will not go far enough to protect people from disability hate crime and the long-lasting impact it can have.
Kayleigh, from London, experienced disability hate crime and explained how it affected her: “I get a feeling that someone’s going to say something to me.
“‘It’s alright’, I say. ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.’ But it’s not easy.”
A dedicated hate crime strategy may also give victims the encouragement they need to come forward, as currently, many incidents of hate crime go unreported.
As Kerry, from Milton Keynes, explains: “As someone who has faced abuse online and offline, I can understand not reporting it to the police. I didn’t want to be seen as a “victim” or a burden. I thought I could handle it, just ignore it or even brush it off. “
Disability hate crime should be a ‘key focus’
Leonard Cheshire and United Response say we now need to “narrow the justice gap between the number of disability hate crimes recorded and the number of offences resulting in a charge.”
“There are real people behind these numbers and once a person has been a target of hate, they can be utterly changed.
“We are asking the government to rethink the plan not to publish a hate crime strategy. If they want to set targets for police responses to crime, then disability hate crime should be a key focus, not brushed aside.
“Our research shows people want to help in a safe way. We need everyone to be allies in the fight against disability hate crime,” they said.