The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is to review how it dealt with two high-profile crimes against disabled people, after police and prosecutors were criticised for failing to treat them as disability hate crimes.
Both the cases were investigated by Greater Manchester Police and received widespread publicity.
The CPS decision came after furious disabled activists attacked a judge who failed to jail three teenagers who carried out a sustained and violent attack on a disabled teenager – one of the two cases the CPS will review.
The three teenagers from Greater Manchester were this week sentenced to community service orders and curfews after admitting a series of assaults on the young man with Asperger’s syndrome.
The disabled teenager – who cannot be named for legal reasons – was repeatedly punched, kicked and beaten with a tennis racket. He was thrown down an embankment, pelted with dog mess, had his limbs scratched with sandpaper and was forced to drink vodka and gin until he passed out.
The three teenagers recorded the attack – which lasted three days – on a mobile phone.
Stephen Brookes, one of the coordinators of the Disability Hate Crime Network, said the judge’s decision not to jail the three men was “unbelievable”, and that one police inspector had told him it was the worst miscarriage of justice he had come across in 30 years as a police officer.
But there was also confusion about the failure of the criminal justice system to treat the attack as a disability hate crime.
Despite Greater Manchester Police (GMP) originally recording the incident as a hate crime in which the victim was “targeted because of his disabilities”, there was no attempt by prosecutors in court to treat the offences as a disability hate crime.
If they had done so, they could have asked the judge to impose stricter sentences under section 146 of the Criminal Justice Act.
A CPS spokeswoman said: “It was not prosecuted as a disability hate crime because there was insufficient evidence to show that the defendants’ actions were motivated by hostility or hatred of the disability of the victim.”
But she was unable to say whether there had been any attempt by the police to collect this evidence or whether the CPS had asked the police to do so.
In a statement, detective chief inspector Bill McGreavy, of GMP, said the attack was originally recorded on the force’s crime management system as a “hate crime”, as it was “clearly motivated from the outset by the victim’s disability and vulnerability”.
He said the investigation and evidence presented to the court “fully reflected the victim’s disability and vulnerability”.
But a GMP spokesman said it was not clear whether the attack was investigated as a disability hate crime under section 146.
And he was unable to say whether GMP had collected evidence aimed at proving the attack was a disability hate crime, and whether that evidence was passed to the CPS.
The case came less than a month after GMP admitted it failed to investigate the bullying and harassment of another disabled man, David Askew, as a possible disability hate crime.
Askew, who had learning difficulties, collapsed and died in March soon after police received reports that youths had been harassing him outside his home.
Tests revealed he died from natural causes but he and his family – his mother is a wheelchair-user and his brother also has learning difficulties – had faced hostility, threats and abuse from local youths for 17 years.
After Disability News Service approached the CPS about both cases, a CPS spokeswoman said: “The chief crown prosecutor for Greater Manchester, Robert Marshall, will be reviewing both cases to see if there are any lessons to be learned or passed on to the police.”
She said the review would include decisions taken by police and the CPS under section 146, and added: “We are looking to see how the cases went through the system and if there are lessons to be learned.”
14 October 2010