Sharp rise in calls to disability hate helpline


Reporting of disability hate crimes to a hotline more than trebled last year and is set to rise sharply again this year, a conference has heard.

Calls about disability hate crime made to the helpline rose from 26 in 2007-08 to 93 last year, with 80 calls already received in the first half of this year.

The figures were revealed by the anti-hate crime charity Stop Hate UK, which runs the helpline and attributed the increase to rising awareness among disabled people.

Crime reduction minister Alan Campbell told the national hate crime conference, organised by the London Borough of Havering, that the deaths of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter Francecca had focused attention on the “torment” that can come from “systematic” abuse.

An inquest in September found that Pilkington committed suicide and unlawfully killed her daughter, Francecca, after a ten-year hate campaign led by a local gang, much of it directed at Francecca, who had learning difficulties.

Campbell said: “We need to work together to make sure that offenders are dealt with, but also crucially that victims are protected and supported.”

He said new guidance for Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships, to be issued as part of the government’s hate crime action plan, would help deal with “campaigns of prejudice and hate” such as that experienced by the Pilkington family.

But he said it was crucial to “build confidence” so victims of hate crime “feel able to come forward”.

Mark Brookes, a senior policy worker at the learning difficulties charity Values Into Action, said: “People with learning difficulties should act together to break the silence and learn about hate crime.”

He said more must be done to ensure people with learning difficulties know what a hate crime is and are confident enough to report such crimes.

But he called for “action and not strategies” and said he was tired of “just repeating and repeating” the hate crime message.

He said he himself has had eggs and tomatoes thrown at him and is afraid to leave his house after 8pm, as are many other people with learning difficulties.

Abigail Lock, Scope’s head of advocacy and campaigns, called for joined-up inter-agency working, for tackling disability hate crime to become a mainstream issue, and for investment in third-party reporting centres.

And Bennett Obong, project manager of the Metropolitan Police Authority’s hate crime forum, said: “It is actions that make a difference…communities need to see that there is a response from the agencies that have a responsibility.”

4 November 2009