The director of public prosecutions, Sir Ken Macdonald, has severely criticised the police and courts for failing to deal with hate crimes perpetrated against disabled people.
In a speech this week, Macdonald, who is head of the Crown Prosecution Service, said a “vast” amount of disability hate crime was not being picked up by the criminal justice system. He also slammed prosecutors for not pushing for tougher sentences on those found guilty of assault or harassment against a disabled person.
Macdonald accused the authorities of regarding disabled people as “easy targets” of crime rather than as people who had been victimised due to their impairments.
He added: “This approach is wrong. It means that the opportunity to condemn the prejudice and hostility of the offender is missed.”
He called on the police to routinely gather evidence of repeat victimisation, name-calling and harassment in order to help secure more disability hate crime prosecutions under Section 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.
Though not a specific offence, a disability hate crime – any crime wholly or partly motivated by hostility to someone on the basis of their disability – must receive a tougher sentence.
His criticisms echo a recent joint report by Scope, Disability Now magazine and the UK Disabled People’s Council which found that in 2007-8 just 141 disability hate crimes were successfully prosecuted, compared to 6,689 racial incidents and 778 homophobic incidents.
Scope chair said: “We hope Sir Ken’s speech will act as a catalyst for this type of crime to be handled more effectively by the criminal justice system in future and prosecuted and punished for what it is.”
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- Also, see Outside Left’s blog, Disabled people need their Macpherson moment