Scale of disability hate crime revealed
Monday 12 September 2011
Mencap supports EHRC’s call for action on disability-related harassment
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has published the results of its inquiry into disability-related harassment.
It also addressed wider issues around recording, reporting and responding to hate crime.
New figures released in September showed that disability hate crimes rose by more than a fifth in 2010. Across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, police recorded 1,569 incidents in which the victim thought the alleged crime was motivated by their disability, compared with just 1,294 in 2009.
However, many hate crimes remain unrecorded. Mike Smith, lead commissioner for the EHRC’s inquiry, said: “For me, two things come out of this inquiry… The first is just how much harassment seems to be going on… The second is that no one knows about it.”
Recommendations for change
The EHRC makes a number of specific recommendations for addressing hate crime. For example, it says that the government should commission research on disability-related harassment to help fill knowledge gaps. And it should change sentencing guidelines to treat all identity-based hate crime murders equally.
Recommendations for the police include that a named officer should provide victims and witnesses with acknowledgement of their incident in an accessible format, including contact details and advice on what to do if further incidents occur.
Within the court system, the EHRC says that comprehensive monitoring systems should be introduced to identify whether victims of crime are disabled and whether hostility or prejudice to disability was a motivation in the crime.
Mencap's head of campaigns and policy, David Congdon, said: Public authorities need to step up to tackle this terrible scourge, or end up condemning hundreds of thousands of disabled people to years of violence, harassment and abuse. If such crimes are to be prevented and justice achieved for victims, it is essential that these authorities act on the recommendations in the report.
The EHRC says it will progress the recommendations in partnership with the other agencies and organisations involved. However, the report also concludes that hate crime is a social problem. 'Everyone should be aware that disability-related harassment is predominantly a social problem and one that, in the final analysis, also requires an individual response and commitment to change.'
Gemma Hayter's killers sentenced
The EHRC's report was published on the same day that the killers of Gemma Hayter were sentenced.
Gemma, a young woman with a learning disability, was viciously beaten and left to die in Warwickshire last year.
Three people were jailed for life and two others were given 13 and 15 years for manslaughter at the sentencing at the Old Bailey, London.
Gemma had considered all five to be her friends.
Read the report on the EHRC website
Find out more about Mencap’s campaign against hate crime, Stand by me