A disability hate crime can be defined as anything from online abuse to physical violence in which the individual was targeted because of their disability.
The Criminal Justice Act 2003 defines disability as any physical or mental impairment. This includes persons with physical or learning disabilities. The consequences of hate crime are far reaching in terms of individual behaviour, perceived psychological and physical safety for the community as a whole, and long term impact on society.
- Fear of hate crime makes people limit their daily lives to stay safe. They start to avoid certain establishments, areas and, sometimes, they have to move from their homes.
- People feel isolated and invisible, and have a sense of hopelessness. And the same is true when hate crime is perpetrated online.
- People with disabilities who have constantly faced hate crimes integrate it into part of their daily lives and rarely report it.
- While the above is also the case for other hate crime strands, it has wider implications for people with disabilities since many are already limited by ableist socio-political, economic and cultural structures along with some of the living arrangements mentioned in the next section.
Common factors in disability hate crime to watch out for
- Perpetrators are often partners, family members, friends, carers, acquaintances or neighbours.
- There are a number of common triggers for crimes against disabled persons, for example: access or equipment requirements, such as ramps to trains and buses, can cause irritability or anger in perpetrators; perceived benefit fraud ; jealousy in regard to perceived ‘perks’, such as disabled parking spaces. This can mean that disabled people are faced with frequent incidents of similar nature.
- Offending by persons with whom the disabled person is in a relationship may be complicated by emotional, physical and financial dependency and the need to believe a relationship is trusting and genuine, however dysfunctional.This necessitates an awareness of safeguarding issues and the offence of controlling or coercive behaviour.
- Carers, whether employed, family or friends, may control all or much of the disabled person’s finances. This provides them with opportunities to abuse, manipulate and steal from the disabled person.
- Cruelty, humiliation and degrading treatment, often related to the nature of the disability.
- There are barriers to reporting incidents to criminal justice agencies because of the enhanced opportunistic situation that some disabled people may find themselves in.
- Disabled people have a tendency to report incidents to a third party rather than to the police. This has contributed to campaigns to improve communication about how to report hate crimes.
- Hate incidents against people with learning disabilities and autism can be harder to detect and often affect children and young people. Sometimes it can become part of the routine of the individual experience and they may not get the support they need or may not know they can ask for that support, especially when the situation escalates to a hate crime. Campaigners are asking for hate crime figures to be broken down by type of disability and additional support for those with learning disabilities and autism in terms of training front line staff and increasing general public awareness.
Latest Home Office figures show an increase in the number of hate crimes reported. The table below shows the number of hate crimes reported by strand. So, someone could be targeted because of their disability and their race hence the difference in the number of offences and motivating factors. Around five per cent of hate crime offences in 2016/17 are estimated to have involved more than one motivating factor, the majority of these were hate crimes related to both race and religion.
Why should people report hate?
You do not have to be a target of a hate crime to report it. You can report incidents online (via your local police website or third party sites such as True Vision) and you can report them anonymously. You should report a hate crime because earlier interventions can prevent escalation to violence. It also helps law enforcement organisations to build a better picture of the problem and deploy resources effectively.