Union boss calls for action on disability hate crime


A leading union boss has called for more to be done to recognise and stamp out disability hate crime.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of the public sector union UNISON, told his national disabled members conference that he wanted discussion of hate crime to be included in the national curriculum.

UNISON also wants criminal justice agencies and local authorities to do more to address disability hate crime, he said.

And he called for more “third party reporting centres”, which allow disabled people to ask someone else to report a hate crime on their behalf, in order to “stop disabled people living their lives in fear”.

Prentis said: “Disablism is rife within our society and attacks against disabled people are common, yet there is very little being done to record or prevent this type of hate crime.

“If crimes are perpetrated against a gay person, or someone from a minority ethnic or religious group, there can be little doubt that these would be investigated as possible hate crimes – the same attitude needs to be taken towards disability hate crimes.”

Jonathan Shaw, minister for disabled people, told the conference that there was “no place in our society for disability hate crime” and that the government was addressing the issue through its new hate crime action plan.

Paul Hardisty, a disabled communications officer with Kent police, who has himself been the victim of a hate crime, said: “We need to continue recording and monitoring these disability hate crimes, so we can see it for the huge problem it is.”

And fellow disabled delegate Margie Hill, who has also been the victim of a hate crime, said: “Disability hate crime needs to be acknowledged and stamped out.”

Prentis also told the conference that a new union survey had revealed that more than a third of disabled members who responded said they had been bullied at work in the previous six months.

His speech came as the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD) revealed that nine per cent of disabled people who responded to a national survey said they had been the victims of a disability hate crime.

John Knight, LCD’s director of policy and campaigns, said the figure was “deeply worrying”.

He said: “There is a clear need for more robust identification and recording of disability hate crimes, better support for disabled people who are victims of crime and improved access to justice.”

5 November 2009