In the past two years, disability hate crime in England and Wales rose to record numbers. As defined by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and Police of England and Wales, a hate crime is “any criminal offense which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice, based on a person's disability or perceived disability…”
Although, hate crimes are covered by Section 66 of the Sentencing Act 2020, the recent data suggests the need for additional legislation to address the specific problem of disability-motivated hate crimes.
Data collected by charities Leonard Cheshire and United Response reveals an increasing number of disability-motivated hate crimes reported in 2022 and 2021. More than half of these reports involve violence in a 27% increase from 2020. This data represents only the number of reported disability-motivated hate crimes, which is thought to be miniscule in comparison to the actual number of hate-crimes experienced by individuals with disabilities.
A similar trend is observed across Northern Ireland. The Police Service of Northern Ireland reports that incidents of disability-motivated hate crimes are now at their highest level since 2005. They also found that policing outcomes for disability-motivated hate crime are among the lowest compared with other hate-motivated offenses. This represents a significant lack of redress for victims.
Suggestions from The Field
A recently released report, Say No to Disability Hate Crime, analyses the data and provides recommendations for individuals with disabilities as well as larger scale change. Most notably, they propose that the first step must be to focus on educating young people. They advocate for a national education curriculum to directly address ableism in schools.
To address the glaring lack of redress for victims, they advocate for widespread investment in police training so that police can offer better support for victims of disability-motivated hate crime to seek justice. They suggest providing central funding to provide for the appointment of Disability Liaison Officers trained in disability awareness and engagement.
While the sheer annual number of disability-motivated hate crime reports illuminates the scope of the issue, it is important to also look at qualitative evidence to better understand the impact of the crimes upon individuals with disabilities. Too many individuals with disabilities are tormented by a fear of victimization and abuse, and far too frequently do their grievances go without redress. This data reflects that support needs to be given beyond initial reporting to support hate crime victims in pursuing justice and redress afterwards.
Annika Berlin is an intern joining PILA from New York. She studies psychology and political science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She has both a passion for social justice advocacy and neuroscience-focused research.
Most of her previous work is in a research setting. She has conducted research in a few different labs, ranging from research on the psychology of violence and intergroup conflict, sex differences in neurodegenerative diseases, health disparities connected to underserved groups and sleep science. She is passionate about advocacy and equity, specifically for individuals with disabilities and hopes to work in the prosthetic sector.