Disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) are calling for an urgent inquiry into the “systemic failure” by the Metropolitan police in how it responds to reports of disability hate crime.
A new report says the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has been guilty of repeatedly failing disabled people who try to report disability-related hate crime.
Among the concerns raised in the Poor Police Response report are of police officers dismissing allegations of hate crime brought to them by disabled people, or downgrading them to anti-social behaviour.
Some disabled people have reported being mocked by police officers when they tried to report a crime, says the report.
And some say that when they try to report a crime, officers prioritise counter-claims made by the alleged offender.
Six DPOs that work with survivors of disability hate crime have told the authors of the report that the police response to such reports was “poor”.
One DPO said: “The police don’t believe the survivors, stop attending calls completely, always saying there is no evidence when they even try to investigate, clients sometimes mocked.”
The report, launched on 3 December, the international day of disabled people, has been sent to the London Assembly’s police and crime committee, along with a call for it to launch an urgent inquiry.
The report has been published by the London Deaf and Disabled People Organisations’ Hate Crime Partnership, a network of 24 disabled people’s organisations that provide support and advocacy around hate crime issues, and which is led by Inclusion London.
Louise Holden, the partnership’s project manager and one of the report’s authors*, told Disability News Service (DNS): “With the London mayor’s police and crime plan consultation going on at the moment, we want this report to be a wake-up call to those in power to do something about the unacceptable way disabled victims are being treated.
“It’s like justice has gone back 20 years in how victims are responded to. With hate crime on the rise year after year, this needs to be addressed as a top priority.
“We know there is a will from the mayor’s office to look at why disabled victims have such a negative experience, but we want to see action.
“Disabled victims can’t wait anymore. They deserve better.”
DNS revealed earlier this year how figures showed that prosecutions of disability hate crime across England and Wales had plunged by nearly half in just two years (from 579 to just 292), even though offences recorded by police forces have been rising sharply.
The fall appears to have been caused by a drastic drop in the number of disability hate crime suspects referred to prosecutors by the police for a charging decision.
Holden said disabled people being failed were often reporting serious crimes such as “county lines” offences, witness intimidation, violent assaults and threats to life.
One DPO told the researchers: “Things seem to have gotten worse over the last six months; we just can’t progress any cases as we do not hear back from the officer in charge, only to find out that the case has been closed due to lack of evidence.”
One report in a London borough in 2016 found 98 per cent of disability hate crime in that borough was going unrecognised or unreported.
The new report says its research also suggests a wider systemic failure by police forces across the UK when responding to disability hate crime.
Among its recommendations is for MPS to reinstate its Disability Hate Crime Matters scheme, which led to the number of disability hate crimes recorded by police increasing by 500 per cent within weeks of its launch in 2016.
It also calls for disability equality training for police officers that would be led by disabled people; for proactive efforts to recruit disabled police officers; and for greater use of the force’s disabled advisers on the MPS disability independent advisory group.
And it says the force should do more to identify disability hate crime hot-spots and repeated incidents.
Superintendent Martin Kirby, lead responsible officer for hate crime in the Met, said: “We take all reports of disability hate crime seriously, however recognise there is more work to be done, specifically to address the lack of confidence in reporting to us.
“We have refreshed our overall approach to tackling hate crime in order to provide better support to victims, to enable a stronger response towards offenders of hate crime and to improve accessibility of our service to Londoners across all communities.
“Following this we have begun to see an increase in the number of disability hate crime reports to the MPS.
“In recent months, the Met has continued to increase its victim referrals to CATCH, an alliance of charities who give specialist help and advice to victims and witnesses of hate crime.
“We are considering the report’s findings and currently assessing the recommendations in order to increase victims’ confidence in the MPS.
“In addition, we will be making contact with the authors of the report for more information in order to address the concerning comments and feedback.
“We continue to dedicate significant resource to investigating cases of disability hate crime brought to our attention and encourage those who may have been a victim or witness to come forward.”
Shaun Bailey, the Conservative chair of the London Assembly’s police and crime committee, said: “The police and crime committee has read the report by the London Deaf and Disabled People Organisations’ Hate Crime Partnership with interest and notes the report’s recommendation for the committee.
“It is absolutely abhorrent that disabled people experience physical assault and verbal abuse.
“It is also concerning that disabled victims of hate crime have reported not being believed or being dismissed, after telling police officers they felt targeted due to their impairment.
“The police and crime committee will be investigating hate crime in London in the new year, following a surge of incidents in 2021.
“Disability hate crime will be looked at as part of this and is a priority for the committee going forward.”
*The other co-author is Lara Conner
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