Unclear definition, underreporting and lack of training see victims of disability hate crime let down by criminal justice system


Last week, we featured a guest blog from our sister site the Mental Elf which looked at the findings of a study based on the British Crime Survey which found that people with disability are at increased risk of being victims of domestic and non-domestic violence and suggested the need for an urgent assessment national policies on violence prevention in this vulnerable group.

This week sees the publication of a joint review of how the police, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and probation trusts deal with disability hate crime, which looked not only at policies and procedures of the agencies involved, but also at social attitudes and barriers to inclusion that exist or disabled people more generally.

The report  acknowledges that there has been some progress, but also reported concerns that problems remain in the detection and recording of crimes against people because of their disability.

The key findings of the report suggest:

  • Lack of clarity and understanding as to what constitutes a disability hate crime and confusion between policy
    definitions and the statutory sentencing provision
  • Continued under reporting of disability hate crime
  • Need for better joint co-ordination of community engagement projects undertaken by police and CPS and the need for increased awareness of disability issues in Probation trusts.
  • Failure in police day to day investigative work to fully consider disability hate crime issues
  • Failure by police to identify disability hate crimes to the Crown Prosecution Service when seeking
    charging advice
  • Need for the CPS to improve performance in relation to case preparation to ensure that disability hate crimes are effectively prosecuted.
    Members of the Judiciary interviewed for the review being invited to consider s.146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which gives the court the power to consider enhanced sentencing in disability hate crime, only on an exceptional basis.
  • Lack of key information in Probation trusts resulting in a culture of accepting the offender’s account, rather than focusing on the victim.
  • The need for an effective and comprehensive training programme for practitioners.

The report’s authors conclude that:

Disability hate crime not only impacts on the individuals involved,  but also has a negative impact on communities in relation to cohesion and integration.

They suggest the need for a ‘new impetus’ focusing on

  • improving awareness
    increasing reporting
    embedding disability hate crime processes within  routine working practices of police, CPS and probation trust staff.

They make a number of recommendations including

  • Adoption and publication of a single, clear and uncomplicated definition of a disability hate crime
  • Consideration of how to ensure increased reporting of disability hate crime
  • Better disability hate crime training  for front-line staff
  • Better identification of disability hate crime from information received from the public
  • Improvements in accuracy of data relating to disability hate crime
  • Improved reference to section 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 where this is appropriate with outcomes recorded
  • Improved awareness and management of risk posed by the offender to the victim or other potential victims by Probation trusts

You can download the full report here: Living in a Different World: Joint Review of Disability Hate Crime; HMCPSI; HMIC; HMI PROBATION

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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