Little progress has been made in the 12 years since a ground-breaking investigation exposed how disabled people were being “harassed, attacked, humiliated and even killed” because their lives were considered less valuable than others, says a new report.
The extent of disability hate crime was highlighted for the first time in the autumn of 2008 in Getting Away With Murder, a report produced by Disability Now, the UK Disabled People’s Council and Scope, and written by journalist Katharine Quarmby.
Now, 12 years on, Inclusion London has published a follow-up report – Still Getting Away With Murder: Disability Hate Crime in England – which shows how such crimes are “as common as ever”.
The report, written by disabled academic Dr Laura Chapman, describes an “omnipresent and toxic culture in which people only react to the most shocking attacks and murder”.
Often, the report says, disabled people experience the “nightmare” of a “bombardment of micro aggressions” before the increasing severity and frequency of “sustained attacks, excessive violence; cruelty, humiliation, degrading treatment” finally alerts the criminal justice system.
The report concludes that there has been no “radical change” in the last 12 years and that research suggests there has even been a “steady increase” in disability hate crime.
It also suggests that more work needs to be done to uncover the true extent of disability hate crime in England.
And it says that the perception that disability hate crime is “an occasional problem for a few individuals” remains “all too prevalent” across the criminal justice, transport, education, and housing sectors.
It also warns that disabled victims are still not taken seriously and are often dismissed as “unreliable witnesses” and “routinely denied access to justice”.
And it says that professionals must accept the message that disability hate crime is a significant part of many disabled people’s life experience.
But the report also says there have been “positive changes” where there has been co-production between services, public bodies and disabled people’s organisations and where agencies begin to view disabled people as “actively working against disability hate crime” rather than as “passive, weak and needy victims”.
The new report was commissioned by Inclusion London as part of its work as lead organisation of the London DDPO* Hate Crime Partnership, and was funded by The Three Guineas Trust.
In a foreword to the report, Anne Novis, who played a significant role in the original report, said there had been some progress since 2008, with criminal justice agencies now accepting that they needed to address the flaws in the system.
But she said that the “murders, attacks and harassments” of disabled people continue.
Novis says in the report: “Whenever society is pressured by financial constraints like ‘austerity’ or issues like the recent pandemic, Disabled people become the focus for hostility.
“We are deemed a burden on the state, recently named as spreaders of disease, targeted if not wearing a mask, deemed a strain on the NHS.
“Therefore, some feel justified targeting us online, in media, and where we live and work.”
She calls for a national approach to tackling disability hate crime, and one that does not depend on individual disabled people or the commitment of particular police officers.
Novis, who chairs Inclusion London. said there was also a need for new legislation “that ensures all hate crime is treated the same”.
She adds: “Until we get this we hold the history of the experiences, the ones murdered, tortured, abused, attacked and harassed because of who they are.”
*Deaf and disabled people’s organisations
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