Disabled people are significantly more likely to become victims of
crime than those without disabilities. Despite research showing
fear of crime to be a major negative influence on the way they live
their lives, disabled people’s needs and views are all too often
overlooked when it comes to preventing and tackling crime.
Many disabled people are effectively excluded from being able to
seek the support and ultimately the justice they deserve simply
because of a lack of information. Easily accessible advice on crime
prevention is urgently needed. This might include tips on personal
safety or on how to secure a home. It needs to be available as
widely as possible and in formats including audio and Braille.
Similarly, information on processes and procedures would help
disabled people deal with our notoriously complicated criminal
justice system. While the system is problematic for many
able-bodied victims of crime, it is considerably more so for
disabled people, if only because procedures rarely make concessions
for disability. For example, blind and partially sighted people
have difficulty in persuading authorities of their reliability as
witnesses. Wheelchair-users cannot give a statement at a police
station if there is no wheelchair access. The reliance by criminal
justice authorities on the written word unwittingly discriminates
against people with sight impairments or learning
Better training for police and community safety officers in working
with disabled people would be welcome. Making crime reporting
procedures more accessible would improve confidence in reporting
Disabled people are often targeted simply because they are
disabled.Such crimes should be regarded in the same way as racially
motivated offences or offences targeting gay or lesbian people. If
disability was added to the overall hate crime agenda, this would
mean more resources allocated to reducing and preventing such
crimes and would send a strong message out to the perpetrators.
Crimes against disabled people are presently not recorded as such.
They should be.
What is most lacking is dialogue. Disabled people or groups
representing them are rarely consulted about crime-related issues
either by police or community safety partnerships. This must change
if there is to be any chance of disabled people enjoying the same
right as anyone else to be safe from victimisation.
Samantha Cunningham is programme development officer in
rehabilitation agency Nacro’s crime and social policy