The number of disability hate crime cases prosecuted in the courts has more than doubled in a year, according to a government report.
The Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) annual hate crime report says it prosecuted 393 cases of disability hate crime in England and Wales in 2008-09, compared with just 183 the previous year.
The report says the increase in volume is “very encouraging” and suggests police and prosecutors are “improving their ability to recognise and flag these cases”.
Any criminal offence found by a court to be a disability hate crime – after it is brought to the judge or magistrates’ attention by a prosecutor – should earn a harsher sentence.
But the number of prosecutions is still far lower than homophobic hate crimes (more than 1,000 prosecuted) and racist and religious hate crimes (more than 11,500).
The conviction rate for disability hate crimes fell slightly, from 77 to 76 per cent, while the proportion of cases referred to the CPS in which prosecutors decided to charge a defendant also fell slightly, from 67 to 66 per cent.
Anne Novis, who leads on disability hate crime for the United Kingdom’s Disabled People’s Council, said the figures were still “very low” compared with the true extent of hate crime reported to disabled people’s organisations.
She said: “It’s great that it is an increase but it is not enough of an increase.”
She added: “We are still not getting it right on the frontline with the police, with the way they respond, with disabled people having the chance to report appropriately in accessible ways.
“These things we need, so people are reporting and police are investigating appropriately so the CPS can follow it through.”
But she said she believed the CPS was now taking the issue seriously, although it needed to work more closely with disabled people’s organisations and pledge to use the social model of disability as a “key driver” in its work.
Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions, says in the report that the CPS has made progress on bringing all hate crimes to justice, but accepts the need to “focus our efforts to continue to increase the volume of disability hate crime cases in particular”.
The report says the CPS is “not complacent” about the improvements needed, and has acted on concerns from disabled people about low reporting and prosecution rates.
17 December 2009