Disability hate crimes up a fifth

By Wesley Johnson
Monday 10 October 2011 15:56

Disability hate crimes rose by more than a fifth last year, figures showed today.

Police recorded 1,569 incidents where the victim thought the alleged crime was motivated by their disability in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, compared with just 1,294 in 2009.

But the overall number of hate crimes dropped by 7% from 51,920 to 48,127 in 2010.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said disability hate crimes had been "significantly under-reported in the past".

Chief Constable Stephen Otter, the ACPO lead on equality, diversity and human rights, said officers were committed to "building victims' confidence and improving our recording practices so that more victims can access the service they deserve".

Iqbal Bhana, deputy chairman of the Government's hate crime advisory group, added: "It is good to see progress but there is still a long way to go before we can be satisfied that hate crime victims are properly protected."

The latest figures also showed there were 39,311 race-related hate crimes last year, 4,883 motivated by sexual orientation, 2,007 crimes by religion or faith, and 357 by transgender issues.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "Targeting a person or a group based on their disability, gender identity, race, religion or sexual orientation is unacceptable, and tackling hate crime is an issue the Government takes very seriously.

"For the first time police forces are recording hate crime data centrally.

"This will help the police to target resources more effectively and better protect victims, because everyone should have the freedom to live their lives without fear of targeted hostility or harassment."

A spokeswoman for the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said: "Evidence from our inquiry into the harassment of disabled people, which is being released on Monday, shows that there is still significant under-reporting of this type of crime.

"Often there is a failure by authorities to recognise that these crimes may be motivated by hostility towards disabled people, so it may not be recorded as hate crime.

"Disabled people tell us that they do not want to report incidents of harassment or abuse because they fear the consequences or may feel that they won't be taken seriously.

"Specific recommendations for the police are set out in our report Hidden In Plain Sight, which will be published next week."

Dan Scorer, Mencap's campaigns manager, added that the cases were "just the tip of the iceberg", saying "the majority of hate crime cases still go unreported".