The criminal justice system is still failing to take the issue of disability hate crime seriously enough, according to a poll of professionals.
Nearly 50 delegates from local authorities, the Crown Prosecution Service, police forces, central government and voluntary organisations attended the Overcoming a Crisis of Justice conference on disability hate crime.
During a voting session at the conference – organised by Westminster Briefing – nearly four-fifths of delegates said the criminal justice system failed to take disability hate crime as seriously as other hate crimes.
Nearly seven in ten said the court process was “unfriendly and inaccessible” to disabled people.
And 86 per cent said they believed that not enough was being done to ensure that disabled people were seen as targets of hostility, and not just “easy targets”.
But nearly half the delegates said that tackling disability hate crime was high on the agenda in their local area.
Katharine Quarmby, author of the Getting Away With Murder report on disability hate crime, who spoke at the conference, said there was a feeling of “real disappointment and frustration” that the criminal justice system was still failing to treat disabled people equally.
She said: “It was an audience of very highly-skilled professionals with a really good understanding of what’s happening on the ground.
“If they are so disappointed in the criminal justice system, it really shows that the system hasn’t changed.”
Quarmby said the conference also underlined the urgent need for research to discover what motivates offenders to target disabled people in hate crimes.
But she said she was encouraged that criminal justice agencies appeared to be much clearer that lower-level harassment of disabled people often develops into something much more serious, such as hate crime murders.
Stephen Brookes, coordinator of the National Disability Hate Crime Network, who chaired the conference, said he was encouraged that delegates had recognised the importance of taking such harassment seriously and “looking more systematically at this lower level of crime”.
15 December 2009