What is Disability Hate Crime?
In simple terms a disability hate crime is a criminal offence that is purely motivated by hatred or prejudice towards a disabled person, whether they actually have a disability or just a perceived one. Hostility towards the victim, whether this is before or after the actual offence is also a disability hate crime and this is covered by section 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.
There is no doubt that a disability hate crime is an attack on a person’s identity and it definitely infringes on their human rights. Unfortunately it seems to be a regular feature of the lives of the disabled, and indeed there has been research (Mencap, 2000) which showed nearly 90% of those with learning disabilities had been harassed or attacked, and almost a third experiencing this on a weekly basis.
There are concerns that disability hate crimes are being missed by justice agencies, this is seen by the fact that in between the months of April and September 2007 only 68 cases of disability hate crime were prosecuted when that stats show that far more cases are taking place. If crimes are not being reported then disabled people will be suffering in silence, and not receiving the assistance that they need in difficult times. In some cases only half of the vulnerable or intimidated witnesses to such crimes come forward (Home Office Online Report) – prosecutors also are reluctant to deal with cases involving learning difficulties.
Undoubtedly the public struggles to realise the existence of disability hate crime and is ignorant to it. There is also little attempt by other agencies to confront these issues to change attitudes.