autismAbout a third of people with conditions such as autism, Asperger’s syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or mental ill health have been the victim of a crime in the past year, according to new figures.

Figures from the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) report, Crime and disabled people: Measures of disability-related harassment, found that 35% of people aged 16 and over with conditions including autism, ADHD or Asperger's syndrome, had been the victim of a crime in the previous year, as had 30% of people with mental health conditions, such as depression.

In addition, 22% of disabled young people in England and Wales aged 10-15 had been the victim of crime in the previous 12 months, compared to 12% of non-disabled young people of the same age.

“People with mental illnesses and social or behavioural impairments experience some of the greatest misunderstanding and mistrust in society,” said David Isaac, chair of the EHRC. “In spite of progress on perceptions towards people with ‘visible’ disabilities, hostility towards mental health issues remain widespread.

“What our research confirms is that, in contrast to the commonly held prejudice linking criminality to poor mental health, people with mental illnesses are in fact more likely than average to be a victim of a crime.”

Isaac added that the EHRC’s report presents some hard truths. “After the huge success of the Paralympic Games [in London in 2012], young disabled people were looking forward to a far brighter future than any previous generation,” he said. “These findings are a wake-up call that there is still much more that needs to change. We cannot hope to create a more inclusive society for future generations while disabled children continue to live in a climate of fear of victimisation.” 

Disabled people are also significantly more likely to worry about crime than non-disabled people. Half of people with conditions like autism and Asperger’s syndrome were found to worry about being the victim of crime. 

In addition, disabled adults in England and Wales experienced about 56,000 incidents of disability hate crime per year during the period 2011 to 2014. However, reporting of disability hate crime is higher than other criminal incidents. Half (52%) of disability hate crime incidents during the recorded period were reported to the police, compared to only 38% of incidents that were not hate crimes. Six in 10 people who had contact with the police following a disability hate crime incident said they were satisfied with police handling of the matter. 

Mind’s policy and campaigns manager, Geoff Heyes, said: “People with mental health problems still face stigma and discrimination, even at the hands of those meant to support them. Not only does living with a mental health problem make you more likely to be a victim of crime, but research from Victim Support and Mind has also found that too often, victims with a history of mental health problems are dismissed, not believed, or even blamed.

“We welcome this important research, and are pleased to see that reporting of disability hate crimes has increased, perhaps because police, commissioners, healthcare staff, support agencies, local and national government are better working together to remove the barriers victims might face in coming forward to report a crime.”

Ruth Owen, Whizz-Kidz chief executive, added: “There are two reasons that this report is so alarming; first that disabled people are at a greater risk of crime at all, and second that young disabled people fear becoming victims of crime even more than their peers. That young disabled people’s lives should be blighted by the fear – and reality – of criminal activity is alarming and distressing. 

“This report shines a much-needed light on the reality for many disabled people; we hope that its damning findings lead to a better deal for disabled people who – just like everyone else – deserve a life free from becoming a victim of crime.”

To read the full EHRC report, click here.