I did not expect there to be any earth shattering revelations from Radar’s survey on the experiences of disabled people reporting disability hate crime. It has simply reinforced our understanding of the barriers that disabled people face at every step of the way when they try to report a disability hate crime.
We have heard from disabled victims who believe that they should just put up with the crime, or change the how they live to avoid it. This can be reinforced by friends, family or those people who work for the victim because they are under the misapprehension that by ignoring it they are ‘protecting’ the disabled person from further crimes.
Friends, family and professionals can act as barriers to reporting in other ways: for example, if they don’t understand what a disability hate crime is or how to report it. Research tells us that a victim of disability hate crime is more likely to tell a friend or family member, rather than the police, about the crime. If the person that they tell doesn’t recognise it as a disability hate crime and doesn’t know how to report it: nothing can be done about it.
The fear of reprisals is also a barrier to reporting. When a disabled person has been the victim of disability hate crime: they can be worried that if they report the crime the person committing the crimes, or the perpetrators’ friends, might target them further.
Finally and most importantly, disabled people are concerned that if they report disability hate crime to the police, or the appropriate authority, they will not be believed or treated sympathetically. This can be for a range of reasons not least the person who is taking the report have their own prejudices about disabled people.
Negative attitudes and a lack of understanding can have a much wider impact on reporting than just the person who is making a report. We have anecdotal evidence that disabled people who have been treated badly when trying to report a disability hate crime: will discuss their experience with others and that may deter them from reporting a hate crime as well.
If we are to do anything about disability hate crime we must break down these barriers, we must not accept the status quo. We need to show the authorities that this is a major issue that they need to do something about. The only way we can do that is by making sure that every disability hate crime and incident is recorded.
At a personal level reporting a hate crime will increase the likelihood that the person committing the crime will be caught and brought to justice.
At a local level reporting crime, and especially disability hate crime, will enable the local police forces and other authorities to get a better picture of disability hate crime in their area and they will be able to use that information to better tackle it.
At a regional and national level if the number of recorded disability hate crimes increases: regional, and national, authorities will have to do more to tackle it.
We must also focus on the positive and bang the drum where there is good practice! If a police force, local authority or disabled person’s organisation are doing something that is breaking down those barriers we must make sure that others hear about it.
Earlier this month I attended a road show in Waterlooville, Hampshire. It was run in partnership between Hampshire Police, disabled people’s organisations and local authorities. The key aims of the road show was to engage with people with learning disabilities to break down the barriers to reporting crime; increase awareness of disability hate crime; and build trust and confidence in the police.
I was allowed to observe one of two workshops held on the day and led by PC Sarah Kedge, and Kerry Utting from Havant Borough Council. They invited people with learning difficulties to talk about their experiences of crime in general and specifically disability hate crime. They were also able to discuss their experiences of dealing with the police. During the discussions the workshop leaders were able to use those experiences to explain why disability hate crime needed to be reported and how to report it.
But this is not just a talking shop. I know that previous workshops have had a more direct impact on Hampshire’s policing of potential disability hate incidents and crimes. They have been able to use some of the information from the discussions to highlight specific local issues for disabled people. This intelligence has been used to improve how they tackle those disability hate crimes or incidents.
This is just one example. There are plenty more around the country and I have spoken to some extremely passionate people all working to break down the barriers and Stop Disability Hate Crime. So if you know about a project, or work, that is breaking down the barriers to reporting disability hate crime tell me about it by e-mailling me at StopDHC@Radar.org.uk or by post at StopDHC Radar, 12 City Forum, 250 City Road, LONDON EC1V 8AF.
James Pool Public Affairs (Hate Crime) Officer