Police fail again on disability hate crime


newslatestAnother police force has admitted failing to treat repeated, targeted, violent offences against a disabled person as disability hate crimes.

Craig Kinsella was kept as a slave in a garage by a Sheffield family, beaten on a daily basis, and forced to scavenge for food.

Kinsella, who has learning difficulties, was kept imprisoned in “squalid” conditions for more than five weeks by three members of the Rooke family.

He had originally been paid to clean the family’s ice-cream vans, but they refused to let him leave after asking him to sleep overnight in their garage to watch out for burglars.

Kinsella was imprisoned and forced to work for nothing between May and 6 July last year, when police received a call reporting that a man was being assaulted outside the Brookes’ bungalow in Halifax Road, Sheffield.

Officers attending the scene found Kinsella in the back garden. He was taken to hospital, and found to have a broken arm, a fractured rib and chin, extreme bruising to his back and around his kidney, and cuts, lumps and bruises to his head and legs.

He told police that the Rookes had repeatedly attacked him over the previous five or six weeks. The beatings were captured on the family’s own CCTV system.

David Rooke was jailed for six-and-a-half years at Sheffield Crown Court this week, after admitting a charge of false imprisonment and five counts of actual bodily harm. The 44-year-old was also ordered to pay £15,000 compensation to Kinsella.

Rooke’s wife Donna, aged 40, admitted a charge of battery and was jailed for four months, while their son Jamie, 19, pleaded guilty to five counts of actual bodily harm and a charge of affray, and was given a four-and-a-half year prison sentence.

The trio pleaded not guilty to a number of other charges, which have been left to lie on file.

But South Yorkshire police finally admitted today (Friday) that they had not treated the offences as disability hate crimes.

If offences are treated by a judge as disability hate crimes, the sentences must be given an “uplift” under section 146 of the Criminal Justice Act.

A police spokeswoman said: “Was this crime treated as a disability hate crime? No, it wasn’t.”

She said that Kinsella was treated as “vulnerable” but not disabled, but when asked why he was described as vulnerable she said: “I’m not really sure I can answer that. Just that he was a vulnerable man.”

Asked if she accepted that he had learning difficulties, she said: “He has some degree of learning difficulties. I don’t believe that there has ever been an assessment on him.”

The Crown Prosecution Service has so far failed to comment.

Stephen Brookes, a coordinator of the Disability Hate Crime Network, said he was hugely frustrated at yet another example of a force failing to recognise a disability hate crime.

He said: “Nobody knew, nobody did anything. They have failed in their responsibility to the victim to investigate this case properly.

“We seem to be returning to some very dark ages in terms of what is and is not recognised as a disability hate crime.

“There needs to be far more consistent training – by disabled people – for frontline officers into what is and what isn’t a disability.”

In  statement released shortly after sentencing, detective inspector Vicky Short, who led the investigation, said the physical and mental abuse meted out to Kinsella had “plumbed the depths of depravity”.

She said: “David, Donna and Jamie Rooke abused Mr Kinsella for their own pleasure until his spirit and will to stand up for himself and fight back was crushed.

“It has hard to understand how any human being could treat an individual in such a grotesque, callous and inhuman manner.

“I am confident that if we had not received that phone call that day last July we would have been investigating a murder.”

10 January 2014