The number of disability hate crime cases passed by police forces to prosecutors plummeted by a fifth last year, despite the number of allegations reported by disabled people rising by more than 40 per cent.
Police forces across England and Wales passed just 243 disability hate crime cases to the Crown Prosecution Service to decide whether the alleged offender would be charged, despite there being more than 14,000 offences reported to them in 2021-22.
This suggests that less than two per cent of disability hate crime reports resulted in a file being passed to prosecutors for a charging decision.
Disability News Service (DNS) has been tracking the annual fall in police action on disability hate crime for several years.
In 2014-15 there were 924 cases passed to CPS, but by 2018-19 this had fallen to 367, and it kept dropping, to 320 in 2019-20, to 298 in 2020-21 and to just 243 across the whole of England and Wales last year, a fall of 18 per cent in one year.
The figures, provided by CPS, were released after Home Office figures showed the number of disability hate crimes recorded by police forces rising from 9,945 in 2020-21 to 14,242 in 2021-22.
This means the number of cases passed to CPS, as a proportion of recorded disability hate crimes in that year, fell from 3.0 per cent in 2020-21 to 1.7 per cent last year.
Last year, the National Police Chiefs’ Council told DNS it was carrying out a national audit into hate crime and was planning a “thematic audit on disability hate crime reports”, while it was “working closely with our criminal justice partners to understand the reasons behind a reduction in the percentage of crimes that go to court”.
It had failed to comment on the new figures by noon today (Thursday).
CPS declined to say if it was concerned about the police figures, and said it was “a matter for the National Police Chiefs’ Council to address”.
But it said it charges every case involving disability hate crime that meets its legal test, and that it charged more such cases in 2021-22 than the previous year, with eight out of 10 of these cases resulting in a conviction.
Lionel Idan, chief crown prosecutor for London south and CPS hate crime lead, said: “Hate crime against disabled people is truly abhorrent and we have an enormous amount of sympathy and concern for victims.
“We take this issue very seriously and authorised charges in 84 per cent of the cases involving disability hate crimes referred to us in the year to March 2022.
“Upon conviction we always seek to apply for an increase in sentence to reflect the hate crime element and the success of these applications has increased from 28 per cent to 42 per cent between 2018-19 and 2021-22.
“It is crucial that we work with others to improve our response to hate crime.
“We meet with police and organisations – including those who support disabled victims – every three months and, in addition, we have discussed our work on disability hate crime with a national panel of experts, including disabled people, academics, government and the police.”
Meanwhile, Inclusion London has criticised the mayor of London, Labour’s Sadiq Khan, for failing to do more to fund local disability hate crime support services.
In a new report, Inclusion London describes how it has been working – through the London DDPO Hate Crime Partnership – for more than four years with eight other London-based disabled people’s organisations to improve their skills in supporting disabled victims of hate crime.
But none of the organisations has been able to secure ongoing funding for that work, to ensure disabled survivors of hate crime have access to independent advocates.
Louise Holden, hate crime partnership manager at Inclusion London, said: “It’s shocking that not one of the organisations has been able to get ongoing funding and frankly it’s an unnecessary waste of skills that could be used to make a real difference for disabled victims of hate crime.
“It’s no good for the London mayor to say he has a zero tolerance for hate crime without funding for services to back that up.”
A spokesperson for the mayor said: “The mayor is committed to tackling hate crime in all its forms and always has been.
“Far from cutting funding for hate crime, he has in fact strengthened and improved support for tackling hate crime, including disability hate crime, across the city.
“The mayor’s new pan-London hate crime service, the CATCH consortium, went live in October 2021 with more than a 50 per cent increase in funding for hate crime compared to the previous year.”
The mayor’s office said that its small grants programme was disbanded and replaced with this pan-London service, with funding increasing to £569,000 a year to combat all kinds of hate crime, an increase of more than 50 per cent from the previous £370,000 annual funding for hate crime.
But Holden said the CATCH funding was “inadequate”, and there was a need for “localised services”.
Three disabled people’s organisations receive funding through CATCH but they have to cover the whole of London, and they have told Inclusion London that the CATCH funding they receive is not enough to fund the work they need to do.
She said the DDPO Hate Crime Partnership has been working with the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) “as a critical friend” and had tried to provide “solutions to gaps in services”.
But Holden said she was concerned that unless MOPAC acknowledged that more funds needed to be allocated to disabled victims of hate crime “there will be more suffering alone with no support”.
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