A leading activist has submitted evidence of 68 violent deaths of disabled people – and more than 500 other potential disability hate crimes – to a major national inquiry into disability-related harassment.
Reports of the crimes were collected over just three years by Anne Novis, who leads on hate crime issues for the United Kingdom Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC) and is one of the coordinators of the Disability Hate Crime Network (DHCN).
Her evidence is based on reports collected from the media, blogs, internet message boards and personal experiences shared with her by other disabled people, and has been submitted to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) inquiry.
Her Action Now report was published by DHCN, with a second report providing further details and evidence due to be published within days by UKDPC. The second report will also be submitted to the EHRC inquiry.
Some of the disabled people whose deaths are included in the new report were killed by relatives, others by “friends” or as a result of arson attacks, while some were the victims of “deliberately planned tortures and murders” and so-called “mercy killings”.
Other crimes include rapes, domestic violence, vandalism of assistive equipment, targeted hostility by neighbours, online harassment, bullying of disabled children, “fighting” breeds of dogs deliberately set on guide dogs, and public attacks on disabled people who use wheelchairs and scooters.
Novis said the evidence she had collected was “the very small tip of a very large iceberg”.
She said: “Constantly reading about such attacks has at times made me quite depressed. Some of them are such brutal incidents, and yet so few people get justice.
“I wish people would take more notice of what we as disabled people say about the level of abuse that is happening.
“The scale of it is absolutely immense. This report only covers the articles I have found. It is just a glimpse. The reality is far, far greater.”
Among her recommendations, she calls for funding for national and local disabled people’s organisations to tackle hate crime, and for refuges to be accessible for disabled victims of domestic violence.
She also calls for disability hate crime to be recognised as a crime in its own right, rather than just an aggravating factor in other offences, and for disabled people to be covered by laws on incitement to commit hate crime, which currently only cover race, religious and homophobic hatred.
And she says more should be done to challenge the justice system to ensure it does not allow so-called “mercy killings” to be used as a justification for murder.
7 September 2010