People – even some disabled people – find it difficult to understand or believe why or how non-disabled people can hate some of us enough to want to insult, abuse, torture or kill members of our community. Yet the fact remains that Brent Martin was chased across town and kicked and beaten to death because of what he was – a disabled person.
When compared with other instances of hate crime, it's not difficult to understand how a reluctance to believe in hatred of disabled people is hard to accept. If a woman is raped, the motive generally becomes clear that it's because she's a woman and the perpetrator has issues with that. The racial hatred behind the murder of Stephen Lawrence was demonstrably evident.
But we, as disabled people, are seen as worthy more of pity than hatred. The police and the criminal justice system regards us as "vulnerable". This equates with the old thinking about rape – "If you were in that area at that time of night, love, you were asking for it." Whereas, in fact, if a person with high support needs in a residential care setting is being systematically abused by a member of staff, to describe them as "vulnerable" is perilously close to placing the responsibility for what happened on them. In actuality, the perpetrator has chosen to commit the crime because of what that person is.
In the Martin case, the judge placed emphasis on the fact that the three men were "drink-fuelled". That may well be true. But it's also true that they attacked Brent because of what he was – a disabled man.
Disabled people's impairments frighten people because they show them what they could become. Hate is too easily borne out of that fear. And that is what the judiciary, the police and the criminal justice system – and indeed society at large – have to come to terms with. Disabled people create fear and hatred in just the same way as people from ethnic minorities do for the racist; women do for the rapist, or gay people do for the homophobe.
Ian Macrae is the editor of 'Disability Now'