Disabled victims of hate crime are being failed by the police because of a lack of understanding and a failure to take incidents seriously, Mencap said today.
Police officers lacked training in hate crime and forces lacked procedures for tackling disability-related crimes, found a report commissioned by the charity, based on a study of 14 police services.
Fewer than half the services said they had dedicated hate crime officers and only one recorded hate crime by type of impairment.
Mencap is launching a three-year campaign today – the start of Learning Disability Awareness Week – to improve the response of the police and the criminal justice system to disability hate crime.
“We continue to hear reports of incidents being dismissed as ‘only antisocial behaviour’ with little or no real action being
taken,” said chief executive Mark Goldring. “For the people with a learning disability who are suffering from daily abuse, attacks and harassment, this is simply not good enough.
“Time and again we have seen the massive impact these so-called ‘low-level’ incidents have on the quality of people’s lives. Often it leaves people with a disability afraid to leave their homes.”
He cited the case of Fiona Pilkington, who killed herself and her daughter Francecca Hardwick, who was disabled, following years of disability-related harassment from local youths.
Leicestershire Police failed the family by not recognising them as vulnerable or seeing the abuse they faced as hate crime, a report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission concluded last month.
The Stand by me campaign is calling on police forces to sign up to a 10-point plan to improve their response to disability hate crime, including by:-
• Making sure information is available and presented in a suitable form.
• Allowing more time for interviews, particularly where victims have difficulty communicating.
• Understanding how to identify if someone has a learning disability.
• Listening to, respecting and involving families, carers and support staff of disabled people.
• Challenging discriminatory attitudes and language among officers.
• Not labelling disability hate crime as antisocial behaviour.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission is carrying out an inquiry into disability-related harassment, which will report later in the year.
What do you think?Join the debate on CareSpace
Keep up to date with the latest developments in social care. Sign up to our daily and weekly emails