Crimes against disabled people are often overlooked by police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the former director of public prosecutions said today.
Lord Ken MacDonald told the BBC that police were failing to recognise that abuse against people with disabilities is often “simply because they’re disabled”, allowing perpetrators to escape longer sentences.
He added that despite efforts to increase the reporting of abuse against disabled people many victims or not seeing justice done.
Figures from the Crime Survey England and Wales 2011/12 and 2012/13 estimated that there were, on average, 66,000 crimes of abuse against disabled people, with the victims disability seen as the main aggravating factor.
Home Office figures show that there were 1,841 reported instances of disability hate crime in 2012/13, compared to 36,000 for race. Just over a fifth (349) resulted in convictions but only seven were given increased sentences, with courts recognising that the victims were abused because of their disability.
Lord MacDonald told the BBC: “There have been lots and lots of cases involving disabled people who have been terribly abused, terribly injured, murdered.
“But we don’t seem to have latched on to the fact yet, it seems to me, that this has happened to them simply because they’re disabled.”
He added that an “enormous amount” of harassment against disabled people was often because of “the kind of feeling that disabled people are somehow not all ‘compos mentis’”
“Police need to recognise that those sorts of stereotypes – which they may be guilty of as well – can lead to crime, and can lead to enormous distress, and can ruin people’s lives”, he said.
A spokesperson for Disability Rights UK told the independent newspaper:
“To truly tackle it there needs to be an increase in the number of crimes, and incidents, that are reported.
“Until, the majority of these crimes are reported there will never be a true picture of the prevalence of disability hate crime in this country and nothing will change.”