‘Don’t stand by’, Mencap’s report on how police services tackle hate crime, published during Learning Disability Week, shows that this is a fairly common problem. Based on a survey of 15 police services across England and one focus group of people with a learning disability, it reveals some good practice, but also that improvement is needed.
The majority of police services surveyed acknowledged that hate crime against people with a learning disability was more common than against other disabled people, and that actual numbers of incidents were higher than those recorded. However, the report shows a general lack of police understanding of disability hate crime and that there’s no clear strategy in place to tackle it.
While police services have a wide range of channels available for reporting hate crime, only a small number mentioned links with partner agencies, which is worrying, as often people with a learning disability prefer to report incidents to someone they have an existing relationship with.
All of the issues raised in ‘Don’t stand by’ are ones that the three-year ‘Stand by me’ campaign aims to tackle. The first year of the campaign will focus on the police, with the aim of getting them to make a commitment to tackling disability hate crime and collecting figures in a consistent way – to reveal the true extent of the problem.
Mencap has come up with a set of ten police promises, which set out the good practice that ‘Don’t stand by’ showed was required. There are 43 police forces in the UK and 17 of those have signed up.
But it’s not just about signing up. “This is more than just a PR exercise for the police,” says Mark. “This is something that we want to work with police on, to make sure we are getting the response we want for people with a learning disability.” Mencap will encourage feedback on police services that are signed up to the police promise, to ensure that changes are being implemented.
In the second and third years, the focus will be widened out to look at supporting victims of hate crime through the courts and the criminal justice system as a whole. “It’s about that joined-up approach, right through from when a crime is reported to a prosecution,” explains Mark. “That should include the government and their leadership on it, with the legislation and the guidance that they give to the police, the courts, the Crown Prosecution Service and the way they prioritise disability hate crime.”
But while legislation and regulation are important, as Katharine Quarmby says in ‘Scapegoat’, “hearts and minds take longer to change”. She believes “the atmosphere in which we live today is poisoned, by discrimination and violence against disabled people, and the fear and contempt in which so many hold them”.
‘Stand by me’ is aiming to encourage all of us to change that. “We want to be able to influence people’s attitudes,” finishes Mark Gale. “We’re asking people to work together with people with a learning disability – be that the police, families, carers or the general public – and end hate crime.”
Find out more about the 'Stand by me' campaign
Read the ‘Don’t stand by’ report