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Disability hate crime up but charges brought in less than 2% of cases

Less than 2 per cent of disability hate crimes in England and Wales result in a criminal charge, charities have found.

Freedom of Information Requests put in by Leonard Cheshire and United Response found that 7,333 such crimes were reported to forces in England and Wales in 2019/20, of which 118 led to a charge or court summons.

Two-thirds of the 36 forces that responded to the charities’ FOI reported a rise in disability hate crime in the past year.

In 2019/20 the number of crimes involving violence went up 16 per cent, with 3,131 in 2018/19 and 3,628 the following year.

There was also a sharp rise in the number of offences with an online element, with 789 in 2019/20, compared with 542 the previous year.

The total number of offences had increased more than 11 per cent on the previous year, when 6,579 were recorded.

In Northern Ireland, there was a rise of 36 per cent, with 72 crimes recorded in 2019/20 and 53 the previous year.

Police Scotland recorded a 2.3 per cent rise, from 261 in 2018/19 to 267 in 2019/20.

Terry McCorry, Leonard Cheshire’s disability hate crime advocate in Northern Ireland, said: “This intolerable crime can seriously impact the lives of disabled people who are already marginalised by society.

“Social isolation can be a huge issue for disabled people and disability hate crime only serves to make people feel more reluctant to get out and about.

“No one should have to feel unsafe in their home or community.”

Disability hate crime is less likely to be recorded than some other forms of hate crime, and new training has been produced for officers and advice issued for carers to encourage reporting.

The College of Policing said the training referred to is an online learning product which is aimed at call takers and first responders. It has been designed to reflects a number of issues and recommendations raised by HMIFRS around first response.

All 45 UK forces responded to another FOI by the BBC that revealed that reports of homophobic hate crimes have almost trebled from 6,655 in 2014/15 to 18,465 in 2019/20.

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for hate crime, Mark Hamilton, said: “Increases in hate crime are in part due to increased confidence of victims to report to the police and continuing efforts by police to improve recording.

“However, statistics can also represent real rises in hate crime, which do concern us. Police will take all reports of threats and abuse seriously and will work to improve justice outcomes for victims.

“We are committed to investigating any shortcoming, such as the low resolution rates identified in this report, and will take any action necessary to help protect victims and bring perpetrators to justice."

He added: “There are a number of reasons why cases may not get to court including those where, for instance, a young person receives a caution from the police. We have agreed to undertake a national audit to help identify any issues that need attention.”

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