The criminal justice system should do more to encourage vulnerable adults to come forward to report abuse, Community Care Live heard yesterday.
Peter Beresford, a long-term mental health service user and professor of social policy at Brunel University, said vulnerable adults in the UK, particularly those with mental health issues, were falling victims to hate crimes which “run the gamut from verbal abuse to rape to killing and murder”.
“The police, Crown Prosecution Service and the whole of the criminal justice system must create an understanding and positive response, otherwise vulnerable people, particularly those with disabilities, will remain reluctant to come forward,” he added.
Social care workers were also urged to become more vigilant in spotting and reporting abuse. Beresford, also chair of service user body Shaping Our Lives, said the sector needed to “challenge the abuse” in the “exemplary” way that women’s groups had campaigned against rape and domestic violence in the last 30 years.
David Congdon, head of campaigns and policy at Mencap, said a variety of types of abuse were carried out against people with learning disabilities in institutions, such as sedation with drugs, to prevent challenging behaviour, and physical restraint.
Often they were targeted because of the difficulty they faced in expressing themselves verbally, while the system was failing to deal with complaints effectively, he said.
“The tragedy of this debate is that the abusers too often know they will win,” he said. “The service users are not listened to, or the police and crown prosecution service fail to take it seriously. If it gets to court the judge may decide they’re not a credible witness, and even in the event of a conviction, the sentences aren’t strong enough.”
Former police officer Paul Giannasi, superintendent to the attorney general’s office, said a new reporting system overseen by the Association of Chief Police Officers, had already come into force this year. He said the government was striving to “build confidence” in the reporting of hate crimes.
But he added: “We need social care agencies to have policies about knowing how to report and what to report.”
Read Peter Beresford’s blogs for Community Care