Monday, 5 March 2012

Crown Prosecution Service workshop on reporting disabled hate crime

Manchester will host the Crown Prosecution Service’s first workshop on breaking down the barriers to reporting disabled hate crime. If successful it will go nationwide.

Charities, action groups and community networks will discover what advice and support they can offer potential victims of hate crime.

Under the Criminal Justice Act 2003, a disability hate crime is a criminal offence motivated by hatred or prejudice towards a person because of their actual or perceived disability.

High-profile cases involving disability hate crime include that of 38-year-old Fiona Pilkington who, after years of being tormented by a gang of youths in Leicestershire, killed herself and her 18-year-old severely disabled daughter Francecca Hardwick in 2007.

Successful prosecutions for disabled hate crimes have risen over the last four years, increasing from 68 between April and September 2007 to 579 in 2010-11.

According to Stephen Brookes, a coordinator of the Disability Hate Crime Network with over 2,000 facebook members, this good news “should be built upon, it indicates people are more confident of reporting crimes to the police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is better at prosecuting them. However many crimes go unreported.” Some studies suggest by as much as 95% and when Mencap in 2000 investigated the lives of people with learning disabilities they found nine out of ten had been harassed or attacked within the previous year.

A CPS spokesperson said they were aware that one potential barrier to tackling disability hate crime “is the uncertainty around what might constitute one, a fear of not being believed or because it happens ‘to someone else.’ We can help agencies by outlining the prosecution process including what evidence is required and what support is available for victims and witnesses.” Brookes has called for disabled people’s organisations left disappointed by the police in the past “to actively engage as the door is open for collaborative working.” 

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