Earlier this week Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, gave a speech on the subject of disability hate crime to Sussex Law School that was as outstanding as the topic is harrowing.

Over the last few years there have been a number of high profile tragedies – most notably, the death of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter Francecca after years of harassment focused on Francecca’s learning disability – that have revealed the abuse that many people with disabilities are subjected to.

Of course, these were extreme cases, but the sad fact is that harassment and abuse is the daily reality for thousands of people with learning disabilities across the country. Indeed, studies suggest almost one in four disabled people experience harassment in public, including 90 per cent of people with a learning disability.

To give one example: we run a drop in centre in London where people with learning disabilities meet to socialise and learn new skills. This centre is open until 5 and is normally teeming with activity, but at 3pm there is a sudden exodus. The reason: everyone wants to make their way home before children get out of school and taunt them on public transport.

For years we – and other disability organisations such as Mencap - have been urging the police and the public to face up to the fact that people with disabilities in our society are too often treated as second class citizens or worse. Only when we acknowledge the problem can we tackle it together.

That’s why Keir Starmer’s pledge to do more to bring offenders to justice is so welcome. But even more welcome were these words, “Disability hate crime strikes at all disabled people by undermining their sense of safety and security in the community. For this reason disability hate crime should be regarded as particularly serious. Such crimes are based on ignorance, prejudice, discrimination and hate and they have no place in an open and democratic society.” We could not have said it better.

Having a Director of Public Prosecutions who so obviously and deeply understands the social consequences of such hate crime is the first step towards eradicating it, and we are very glad to have Mr Starmer on our side.

Jaime Gill, head of press and public affairs.