Position Statement on Disability Hate Crime

What Is Disability Hate Crime?

A disability hate crime is a criminal offence motivated by hatred or prejudice towards a person because of their actual or perceived disability. It is also a criminal offence in which immediately before, after or during the offence the perpetrator demonstrates hostility towards a person because of their actual or perceived disability. Please also see s.146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003. UKDPC hopes that our work will be acknowledged, recognised and valued, as the voice of our DPOs must be the key influence on the issues disabled people face.

Hate crimes are violations of the human rights of disabled people and a direct attack on a person’s identity. Shockingly, it can be a regular feature in the lives of many. Hate crime can include:

  • Verbal abuse or insults – offensive leaflets and posters, abusive gestures, dumping of rubbish outside homes or through letterboxes, and bullying at school or in the workplace.
  • Threat of attack – including offensive letters, abusive or obscene telephone calls, groups hanging around to intimidate and unfounded, malicious complaints.
  • Physical attacks – such as physical assault, damage to property, offensive graffiti, neighbour disputes and arson.
  • Theft of money or possessions through extortion or stealing.

What we think about it:

Everyone has the right to be protected from any form of hate crime and we will fight for equal recognition of disability hate crime as a serious criminal offence. We want a clear legislation and guidance that will better protect disabled people from incidents of hate crime.

At the local and national level, we are working towards greater understanding and recognition of disability hate crime. We are also calling for appropriate monitoring, investigation and justice for disabled people when attacked, harassed or even murdered.

We recognise disability hate crime as a human rights issue and we will challenge the government on its commitment to the UN Convention on Human Rights for disabled people which states that disabled people are entitled to the same and equal justice as others and freedom from harassment and attacks due to our identity or difference.

What do we want people to do?

We need more disabled people and disabled people’s organisations to become involved and more proactive in reporting incidents of hate crime. That is the only way to move this up the political and legal agendas.

Individually, and as disabled people’s organisations, you can make a huge difference locally and nationally by raising awareness of the issue of disability hate crime and reporting such incidents. When the people who are most affected by this issue rise up and say ‘Enough is Enough!’ then we can become the centre of huge social change where society can respond via the police, justice services and government.

If you would also like to read more about disability hate crime and how to get involved then we strongly recommend you read our document on ‘Disability Hate Crime, How to Get Involved Guide’. Alternatively you can click on the following documents and links.

Disable People Killings:

We have evidence that 68 disabled people were killed between August 2007 and July 2010.

60 men, 14 women, 8 boys, 2 girls and 10 unknown people were involved in committing these attacks and murders.

The details of each of these cases are not described fully in the interests of confidentiality. Many are part of ongoing investigations and we do not wish to compromise judicial processes.

Nevertheless, the cases listed provide a detailed picture of deliberate targeted hostility, whether by relatives who believe they cannot cope any more, or think that their relative wants to die, to opportunistic killings or planned murders and executions.

Several cases listed are of such a nature that no explanation could suffice as to why people would persist in torturing and killing a disabled person, except that perpetrators believe the lives of disabled are of less value than other human beings.

There is also a belief that killing a disabled person will be more ‘acceptable’ then killing a non-disabled person. This is evidenced by society’s views on assisted suicide, attitudes around so-called ‘mercy killings’, the lower sentences sometimes given to those who kill disabled people, the lack of use of laws around sentencing which can be increased if the victim is being targeted due to disability or ‘vulnerability’.

More details about the 68 cases in the media

January – July 2010   

A total of 21 killings have taken place in this seven month period; seventeen cases are still ongoing, two murderers committed suicide and one has been sentenced. Additionally, there is also:

  • 1 murderer in court due to escaping jail (1995 case).
  • 1 case in court for murder in 1997 due to new evidence.
  • 1 case in court for murder in 2006.

January – December 2009

A total of fifteen killings took place in 2009, five trials complete, and ten were sentenced in 2010.

January – December 2008

There were fourteen killings over this year withfour trials complete, four sentenced the following year, one appeal and three in court in 2010.                             

January – December 2007

Seventeen killings took place in 2007, with four trials complete, five were sentenced in 2008, one appeal and two trials taking place in 2010. Additionally, there were also:

  • Two murderers sentenced 2010 (2006 cases).

Reasons for targeted hostility against disabled people?

There are many reasons and factors as to why a person decides to deliberately target a disabled person.  Most arise from social conditioning through myths, fears and stereotypes.

Many believe we are a burden too far for the state and for families to cope with, others believe that we get advantages that others do not such as ‘free new cars’ cheaper housing, extra money in benefits.

The way society treats disabled people unconsciously affects people’s perception regarding disability – from the criteria for abortions, the issue of segregation into special schools, homes or day centres, euthanasia and assisted suicide. All these debates inform the opinions of society about disabled people and encourage misconceptions about our capacities and value as human beings.

At times of recession and social change the focus on disabled people can become very hostile as people fight for jobs and limited resources. The language used about disabled people by our leaders also has its impact. It can take just one government minister using a derogatory term about disabled people or making statements about fraud, to encourage a belief that people are justified in targeting disabled people in hostile and violent ways.

If society already believes disabled people’s lives of less value it takes only a little more nudging to incite hatred and encourage hostility.

Recommendations for Action

Below are just a few general recommendations for action to

  • Enforcement of the Criminal Justice Act 2003
  • Vastly improved response by the justice system and service providers to complaints and appeals for help and support
  • Full access, with reasonable accommodations, to the justice system and service provision.
  • A consistent monitoring process in order to fully evidence and address the issue of disability hate crime.
  • Include disability in Incitement legislation
  • Implementation of Article 15(2) of the CRPD (see App.5)
  • Police to set performance targets as they do with other hate crime
  • Training in disability rights for justice professionals, schools and institutions and, above all:
  • funding provided to DPOs to actively work on the hostility and violations of human rights disabled people experience.

Conclusion

This report has collated evidence about a range of hostility against disabled people. Having hundreds of media articles gives us a glimpse into the hidden world that many have not believed existed.

Our hope is that this evidence, with all the other evidence the EHRC inquiry will gather, will jump start a collection of strategies, polices and action plans at local and national level to ensure that disabled people obtain their human rights to freedom from harassment and justice.

We hope to see a human rights approach, underpinned by the social model,  that protects our inherent rights as equal human beings to dignity, integrity and justice. Also profiling  the perpetrator rather then deciding it is disabled people’s innate ‘vulnerability’ that is the cause all the hostility we face.

As this report begun with the human rights agenda we also end, we wait to see how the commitment of this government to the UN Convention on the rights of disabled people will develop, how it will influence legislation to become equal for all, include disability in the ‘Incitement to commit hate crime’ law and other hate crime legislation.

We have to say that we have waited far too long for such equality and expect a proportionate response to the evidence we and others have submitted. A response that recognises disabled people are attacked every day in a variety of ways and murdered without seeing the full justice that is due to and would be available for others.