In the Media

'Disability hate crimes' rise by a quarter in a year

PUBLISHED October 23, 2012

Official figures show the number of "disability hate crimes" recorded by police forces in England and Wales in 2011/12 increased by almost 25 per cent on the previous year.

While the cases recorded in Leicestershire, which was criticised for the handling of the Fiona Pilkington case, have risen to more than 200 a year, 12 other forces have recorded less than ten.

Campaigners last night suggested that many cases of disability hate crime were being treated as isolated incidents of anti-social behaviour.

Mrs Pilkington and her daughter, Francecca Hardwick, who had severe learning disabilities, died after the mother set fire to their car five years ago today, after more than 30 calls to police went unanswered.

An Independent Police Complaints Commission report was heavily critical of the police for the way they handled the case and the Home Office vowed that such an incident would not be repeated.

It came as an Equality and Human Rights Commission report, published today, criticised some police forces for their continual failure to tackle disability hate crimes.

The report, titled "Out in the Open: a manifesto for change", concluded that based on its evidence "actions taken to prevent and tackle harassment are patchy with some authorities doing nothing or very little at all".

Today's report cited other government figures that showed that fewer than three per cent of disability related hate crime is reported or recognised as such.

Michael Bailey, who lives in Northern Ireland and suffers from a muscle-wasting disease, said he had been tormented for seven years by local youths, abuse which continued despite contacting police 20 more than times.

He said he was called a "freak" and "coffin dodger", had his shed set on fire, had youths demanding money from him, and been pelted with missiles and spat at. He said he was afraid to go to the local shop.

"They make you feel as if you are just a thing sitting in a chair," he told Channel 4 News. He said he had thought about ending his life.

But previous incidents were not recorded as disability hate crime. Figures show the Police Service of Northern Ireland recorded 15 cases of hate crimes last year.

Superintendent Michele Larmour told the programme that, having seen the report, they should have been recorded as hare crimes.

Michael Smith of Equality and Human Rights Commission said that it "must mean that some areas are not responding effectively to disability hate crime, that must mean it is a postcode lottery".

"The public's response to the London 2012 Paralympic Games will go some way to creating more positive attitudes towards disabled people," he said.

"But there is still a discrepancy between this and the day-to-day reality for many disabled people who report abuse and often suffer from a 'postcode lottery' in the way their allegations are dealt with.

'The issue of disability-related harassment might be "out in the open" but it is, most certainly, not yet sorted."

He added: "It is incumbent upon us all, especially in times of austerity, to work to overcome this blight on our society.'