Disability hate crime has risen dramatically in the last year, new figures published today suggest, as campaigners call on government and the police to urgently tackle the growing problem of hate and prejudice in our towns and cities.
Leonard Cheshire Disability sent FOI requests to all 43 police forces in England and Wales. Only 25 police forces responded to the request, which suggests that the problem could be far worse.
Of those that did respond, the provided data reveals that 5,015 disability hate crime offences were reported to police in 2018-2019, compared to 4,111 during the previous year – a 22% increase.
The figures also show a 71% increase in online-related hate crimes. And there has also been a 41% rise in violent hate crimes against disabled people. There were 201 recorded offences in 2017-18, rising to 304 in the last year.
However, while the FOI request suggests that more people are coming forward to report disability hate crimes, there has also been a noticeable decline in the number alleged offences that have been pursued by police.
In 2017-18, 330 reported cases – 8% of all incidents reported to police – resulted in prosecution in England and Wales courts. But this number fell to 293 in 2018-19 – or just 6% of all cases.
Neil Heslop, Leonard Cheshire’s Chief Executive, said the rise in violent crime is particularly “worrying”, adding: “Low prosecution levels are unacceptable and disabled people will feel a sense of injustice.”
He added: “Government and police forces must overcome barriers to successful case outcomes for survivors and perpetrators must be brought to account.”
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for hate crime, said: “People should be able to live their lives and work free of harassment and fear.
“There can never be any excuse for hate crime, or serious threats of violence against people in any shape or form, and these will not be tolerated.
“Police-recorded hate crime has increased in recent years. This is in part due to improvements in police recording, as well as spikes in hate crime following certain events such as the EU referendum and the terrorist attacks of 2017.
“There is a responsibility on us all to think carefully and be temperate in how we communicate to each other.
“We will continue to work to bring offenders to justice and to protect our communities from abuse.”
A Home Office spokesperson said the government is “committed to tackling hate crime in all of its forms – including abuse of disabled people”.
“We welcome the fact that more victims are having the confidence to come forward and report this despicable abuse, and it’s vital that their cases are properly investigated.”