Online disability hate crime rates are up by 52% compared to this time last year, according to the latest police data gathered by disability charities Leonard Cheshire and United Response.
The data has been released ahead of Hate Crime Awareness Week, and shows a huge spike during both national and regional lockdowns when much of the population was forced to stay at home.
In total, there were more than 9,200 online and in-person disability hate crime reports to the police in 2020/21. Worryingly, nearly half (44%) of these crimes were classified as violent i.e. involving assault or possession of weapons.
This means that throughout the last year, there were around 25 disability hate crimes a day. However, the charities warn that this number is probably much higher in reality, as many crimes go unreported.
It is perhaps little wonder as to why so many crimes go unreported, when just 1% of cases were referred to the Crown Prosecution Services (CPS) or charged. This has also contributed to the number of repeat offenders tormenting disabled people, which has increased by 89% compared to last year.
The charities are calling for a specialist disability liaison officer in every police force
To find out more about individual experiences of disability hate crime, the charities conducted in-depth consultations with a range of disabled people.
Sandra from Wales told the charities that she was knocked unconscious outside her flat and when the paramedics arrived they found an older man “fondling” her. “He told the police something along the lines of: she’s disabled, who cares’, and ‘it’s probably the best thing that ever happened to her’,” she explained.
Cassie from London said that when a woman pushed her off a ramp and out of her wheelchair, she had “no idea where to turn to for support” or “if it was worth reporting to the police”.
Leonard Cheshire and United Response are now calling for a specialist disability liaison officer in every police force and for the government to make reporting disability hate crime easier to do.
“The government has a role to play in preventing hate crimes altogether. One of the most important steps in tackling hate crime is creating a more accepting society where differences are tolerated. The government’s National Disability Strategy promised a disability awareness raising campaign. That should be an opportunity to educate everyone, including young people and those in school, about disability hate crime,” they said.
To find out more about disability hate crime, including how to report it, please visit the Leonard Cheshire website.