08 Oct Disability hate crimes in Essex soared by 25% last year, new figures reveal
The number of disability hate crimes reported in Essex soared by 25% in 2019-20, disturbing new police figures obtained by two national disability charities can reveal today.
A total of 424 disability hate crimes were recorded in the region last year, the third-highest rate in England and Wales and a stark increase on the 338 crimes reported in 2018-19. More than half (231) of these crimes was classed by the authorities as ‘violence’, incidents which included assault and harassment towards disabled people.
The figures, part of a joint investigation by learning disability charities Leonard Cheshire and United Response are released ahead of National Disability Hate Crime Awareness Week which starts on Saturday 10 October 2020.
Essex Police also reported a worrying increase in digital disability hate crimes, which rose to 43 crimes and by nearly 50% last year. This meant that one in every 10 disability hate crimes took place over the internet, figures which scarcely scratch the surface of the true scale of cowardly online abuse targeted at disabled people in the region.
Last year’s 43 digital crimes included those reported on social media, online forums and gaming platforms.
Worryingly, just four of the total 424 disability hate crimes committed in Essex between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020 resulted in a police charge for the perpetrator – a charge rate of just one in 100. In 2018-19, there were just two police charges from 338 disability hate crimes – an even lower charge rate.
The charities submitted Freedom of Information requests to 45 UK police forces, 36 of which responded with disability hate crime figures. The full national investigation showed that disability hate crime continues to rise across England and Wales, with crimes committed online also soaring by a staggering 46%. Police Scotland also reported a slight 2.3% rise, while the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) reported a 35.8% rise in overall levels of hate crime.
Charities Leonard Cheshire and United Response say that while widespread increases in disability hate crimes could in some cases be due to improved reporting efforts and confidence among victims, it would be remiss to not acknowledge and confront the root issues behind the dwindling police charges, rising violence and soaring cyber-crime towards people with learning disabilities.
The two charities are encouraging people to show solidarity with victims of disability hate crime by pledging to call out hate crime on online platforms and be an ally to those that need support.
Working together to raise awareness about the impact of disability hate crime, Leonard Cheshire and United Response commented: “As this abhorrent crime continues to rise year on year, it’s time for the authorities, Government and online platforms to start taking this damaging behaviour more seriously. Offenders must face appropriate repercussions and be educated on the impact of their cowardly acts, while increased funding for advocacy services is also urgently needed. Victims need to have better access to support across the entire reporting, investigative and judicial process. This is the only way to make victims feel safe and confident in reporting these crimes to the police, helping lead to more concrete charges and ultimately convictions.
“With online hate crime showing no signs of slowing down, provisions also need to be made to make the internet a less threatening place for disabled people with effective monitoring and recording of hateful activity. Disabled people must also be involved in the development of digital strategies to help ensure this type of damaging behaviour doesn’t slip through the cracks.”
To find out more about how Leonard Cheshire and United Response are working together to raise awareness of disability hate crimes and empower victims to speak out, visit www.leonardcheshire.org and www.unitedresponse.org.uk.