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1. This paper aims to outline the current situation concerning disability hate crime
within British society. It contains brief details on the victims who are targeted, the
perpetrators who target them, the criminal justice system and other organisations
who are aiming to protect them, and what needs to be done to reduce the high
instance of this type of crime.

2. The contents of this paper are as follows:

• Definitions and legislation
• Statistics
o Non-government statistics
o Essex statistics
• Key Issues
o Underreporting
o Justice system
o Responsibility
• Government Position
• Non-government recommendations
• The role of disabled people’s organisations
• Hate Crime and ECDP

3. ECDP is an organisation run by and for disabled people. Established in 1995 our
origins are firmly rooted in a belief that the voice of disabled people, both as
individuals and collectively, is vital if the lives of disabled people are to be

4. Our vision is to enhance the everyday lives of disabled people in Essex and
beyond. For more information about who we are and what we do visit our
Disability Hate Crime: an ECDP discussion paper

Definitions and legislation

5. According to the Home Office, disability hate crime ‘is any criminal offence that is
motivated by hostility or prejudice based upon the victim’s disability.’1 In the
Criminal Justice Act 2003 (which became law in April 2005 and was the first act
to recognise disability hate crime2), section 146 defines disability hate crime as
Offence… motivated (wholly or partly) by hostility towards persons who
have a disability…’ and, ‘at the time of committing the offence, or
immediately before or after doing so, the offender demonstrated towards
the victim of the offence hostility based on a disability (or presumed
disability) of the victim.’3

6. The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 also places a duty to promote disability
equality on all public bodies, including the police.

7. ‘Getting Away with Murder’ a report collated by Scope, Disability Now magazine
and the UK Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC) ‘shows that disabled people
throughout the UK are facing “a crisis of justice” and that ‘widespread casual and
institutional disablism4 in Britain creates the conditions where disability hate crime
can flourish without being recognised or challenged.’


8. There are relatively few government reports or formal statistics on disability hate
crime. Only religious or racially motivated hate crimes carry separate sentences
and the CPS only began collecting statistics on disability hate crime in 2007.
Likewise, police forces have only been required to collect and report
disability hate crime data in a standardised way since April 2008.

9. However, the below statistics, taken from the CPS Hate Crime report 2008-
20095, do provide an instructive overview:
• In the two years ending March 2009, 576 defendants were prosecuted for
disability hate crime. By comparison, in the four years ending March 2009,
45,200 people were prosecuted for racist and religious hate crime.
• 76% of cases of disability hate crime resulted in a conviction; the guilty plea
rate was 61%

Home Office: ‘Hate Crime’
‘Scope: Getting Away with Murder’
Office of Public Sector Information Website
Accessed 19th January 2010
“Discriminatory, oppressive or abusive behaviour arising from the belief that disabled people are
inferior to others".
CPS Hate Crime report 2008-2009:

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Disability Hate Crime: an ECDP discussion paper

• An ‘essential legal element missing’ accounted for more unsuccessful

outcomes than victim issues (victim retraction, cases in which a victim failed
to attend a court hearing and where the evidence of the victim did not support
the case)
• 79% of defendants prosecuted were men and 78% of defendants were
identified as belonging to the White British category
• ‘Offences against the person’ were the most common offences, representing
45% of disability hate crime prosecutions in 2008-09 (a fall on the 53%
recorded the previous year). Public order, theft and handling were also

10. In ‘Getting Away with Murder’, Scope noted several concerns with the
CPS’s data, including that a third of the cases that they had flagged as
having a disability element were, in fact, incorrectly identified as such.
Furthermore, 141 incidents classified as having a disability element
were successfully prosecuted in 2007/8, compared to 6,689 racial
incidents and 778 homophobic incidents.

Non-government statistics

11. Most statistics relating to disability hate crime have been collected by non-
government organisations who work for and with disabled people. These
statistics are considered to be more representative of the truer picture of disability
hate crime, especially since they take account of the situation experienced by
‘real’ victims, rather than those few who made it through the justice system to be
represented by the figures above.
• A Nacro report states that disabled people are four times more likely to
experience sexual abuse and four times more likely to have property stolen
from them with the threat or use of violence.
• A survey by Mencap of people with a learning disability has found that nearly
nine out of ten respondents have experienced bullying in the last year. In
particular, Mencap found that two-thirds are bullied on a regular basis and
almost one-third suffer from bullying on a daily or weekly basis. Mencap
suggests that the bullying of people with a learning disability is
institutionalised throughout society.6
• ‘Another Assault’7, collated by Mind in 2007, found that:
o 71% of survey respondents with mental distress had been
victimised in the last two years
o 90% of the respondents who lived in local authority
housing had been victimised, while 22% had been
physically assaulted

Ellen Alcock – Mencap; ‘Living in Fear’ (2000).
Mind: ‘Another Assult’ (2007)

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Disability Hate Crime: an ECDP discussion paper

o 27% of respondents had been sexually harassed and 41%

were the victims of ongoing bullying
o 62% had been called names such as ‘schizo’, ‘nutter’ and

Essex Statistics

12. There are very few available regional statistics for the East of England or for
Essex specifically. The only information available specifically for Essex (from the
CPS hate crime report for 2008-09) states that 4 disability hate crimes took place
in Essex that year, with a 100% conviction rate.

Key Issues

13. There are a number of key issues which inform the issue of disability hate crime,
which are discussed briefly below.


14. It is worth noting that as with any crime statistics there are a number of reasons
why these may not be accurately representative of the true picture. Given the
type of crime and the (sometimes) increased vulnerability of victims it is likely that
hate crime is even more underreported. Statistically, disabled people are less
likely to report crimes against them.

15. The OPM report into disability hate crime identifies the following areas as
explaining under reporting:
• The relationship between the perpetrator and disabled victim
• The victim’s awareness of their human rights
• The language of hate crime
• Previous experiences with and confidence in the criminal justice system
• Accessibility issues
• Embarrassment
• Fear of losing control or independence
• Previous advice from others telling the disabled person to ignore the incidents
• Difficulty in verbalising experiences.

16. Citing some different reasons, in their 2002 report Access All Areas8, Nacro
found that underreporting of disability hate crime happens for the following
• Confusion about what is classified as a criminal offence
• Not being taken seriously

Nacro: Access All Areas’ (2002)

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Disability Hate Crime: an ECDP discussion paper

• Not knowing how to report

• Lack of access to police stations and inaccessible reporting systems.

17. Nacro concluded:

As a result of pervasive isolation, people with disabilities may not learn

about available services or resources, nor are they routinely informed of
rights they have by the law. This is particularly true for people with more
severe disabling conditions, older people with disabilities and younger
people with development disabilities. Indeed, many people who are
chronically victimised do not even know that society condemns such
predatory conduct and has tools to end and redress that wrong.

Justice System

18. Many disabled people’s organisations have recognised that low levels of
reporting are only a small part of the problem. Many have fears that opportunities
to address disability hate crime are being missed by criminal justice agencies.
Even then, when crimes that are perceived by the victim to be motivated by their
impairment, this is not the same motivating recorded by the Crown Prosecution


19. One of the problems associated with addressing disability hate crime is that it
falls through a number of gaps in terms of agency responsibility. Even when
various institutions are working together, there are a number of inconsistencies
which mean that the cases are not dealt with as efficiently as they could be.

20. In ‘Disabled people’s experiences of targeted violence and hostility’9, OPM

identified that much of the existing evidence on disability hate crime relates
predominantly to the criminal justice system. Their work therefore shifted towards
an approach which shed light on the roles of a wider set of organisations and
agencies operating in different sectors, for example health and social workers or
local authorities, but also people with indirect responsibility, such as landlords
and the housing association. The same report found that there were numerous
instances of frustration being expressed in relation to inconsistent and confusing
language/terminology across different organisational and sector boundaries.

Government position

21. The Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, recognises that hate crime has a hugely
negative impact both on people’s lives and on society. The Cross-Government

OPM: ‘Disabled people’s experiences of targeted violence and hostility’

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Disability Hate Crime: an ECDP discussion paper

Action Plan, which aims to tackle all types of hate crime because of religion,
race, sexuality or disability, therefore aims to:
• Increase the number of victims and witnesses who come forward to report a
hate crime
• Bring more hate crime offenders to justice and obtain more successful
outcomes when it is reported
• Improve responses to hate crime and incitement to hatred that occurs on the
• Improve local responses to hate crime, particularly where there are high
levels of hate crime or a high proportion of hate crime per capita
• Consider how to better respond to hate crimes in the workplace
• Improve access to victim support.

Non-government recommendations

22. On 3rd December 2009, the Equality and Human Rights Commission announced
that it will conduct a Formal Inquiry into disability-related harassment in England
and Wales and how public authorities are protecting disabled people’s human
rights to live free from violence and abuse. At the end of this enquiry, authorities
not tackling hate crime will have action taken against them.

23. Many disabled people’s organisations have carried out similar investigations, and
have observed that authorities could be doing much more to prevent disability
hate crime.

24. For example, the recommendations made by Respond to tackle disability hate
crime are as follows:
• Attack the prejudice that feeds disability hate crime
• Train professionals to respond robustly to each incident
• Work with disabled people and meet the needs of victims
• Provide more funding, more resources and more accountability

25. The key findings of Scope’s Getting Away With Murder Report led to the following
five recommendations:
• Tackle disablist attitudes and behaviours as soon as they start, especially at
• Eliminate casual and institutional disablism in wider society
• Ensure disabled people have equal access to the criminal justice system
• Empower disabled people and their organisations to co-produce effective
responses to hate crime with statutory agencies.
• Improve official data collection and research into the prevalence of disability
hate crime.

26. Taking into account conclusions made by these reports and others, the approach
to disability hate crime can be described as the need for:

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Disability Hate Crime: an ECDP discussion paper

• Education – of disabled people about what hate crime can entail and to know
their rights when they fall victim to it, as well as the wider community, in order
to reduce prejudice
• Reporting – support people to understand and report when they have been
• Justice – police and Crown Prosecution Service to react and recognise when
a crime is motivated by the impairment of the victim, and act accordingly
• Data – greater knowledge is needed in order to tackle the situation.

The role of disabled people’s organisations

27. Disabled people’s organisations can, and in some cases already do, play an
integral role in reducing hate crime or supporting victims of hate crime. The
following are some of the ways that this is done:


28. Trying to gain an understanding of the experience of those who are victims of
hate crime, and even the motivation of perpetrators, is an essential role of
disabled people’s organisations. If the focus is purely on the statistics that
represent these people, the problems of hate crime itself are overlooked.

Signposting and Supporting

29. All reports on this topic reference the difficulty that those affected by disability
hate crime have accessing all the services set up to help (both official, such as
the police, but also those who can simply offer support, such as disabled
people’s organisations and counselling services). Disabled people’s
organisations thus have a key role in signposting disabled people to relevant
support services and ensuring this signposting has the desired effect.

30. Supporting people who have, or are, experiencing hate crime is essential. This
includes supporting people emotionally, or by signposting or helping them
through the reporting process – a role which disabled people’s organisations
could keenly play.


31. Disabled people’s organisations are in a unique position to be able to inform their
members of their rights. As stated earlier, education also needs to extend to the
wider community, in order to prevent the type of prejudices which fuel disability
hate crime. Depending on the organisation, this would be carried out in a number
different ways.


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Disability Hate Crime: an ECDP discussion paper

32. This covers two areas: firstly, it can include producing reports that describe
disabled peoples’ experiences of disability hate crime. Such reports throw light on
the subject in a way that official CPS or government statistics do not, because
they take account of the experiences of victims, as well as the wider issues.

33. Second, reporting also includes supporting disabled people to report cases to the
relevant authorities that disabled people’s organisations become aware of, or
reporting incidents on behalf of a disabled person if they wish to remain
anonymous. This type of reporting can be very important in cases where the
victim does not wish to take the issue further, or only wants support from the
organisation. Their case can still be registered as one of the statistics, which is
essential to demonstrate trends which may be missed when people do not wish
to report through the more official routes of the police, for example.

Hate Crime and ECDP

34. This paper has outlined the scope of disability hate crime in Britain and the key
factors which inform this topic. It has illustrated the prevalence and the
significance of hate crime in Britain and the role that disabled people’s
organisations can play in addressing this.

35. Based on the issues highlighted above, ECDP aims Understanding

to use the ‘USER’ framework to address this
complex topic. This gives a useful structure within Signposting and
which to deliver this work, demonstrating how Support

interventions at the broadest level (understanding)

through to the most specific (reporting crimes when
they happen) can address this problem. Report

36. With this in mind, ECDP will continue to investigate

the roles we and other disabled people’s
organisations in Essex can play in addressing
disability hate crime, taking into account the lived
experience of members, who will be engaged and
kept fully informed of our progress.

For more information about ECDP’s work on

disability hate crime, please contact Faye Savage,
Lived Experience Officer on

To find out more about ECDP, please visit our website:

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