• Reports of disability hate crime are up 12% across 36 regions in England and Wales in 2019/20, but only 1.6% of cases resulted in police charging the perpetrators 
  • Nearly half (3,628) of the reports to police involved an element of violence, rising by 16%
  • 1 in 10 of all reported disability hate crimes took place online, increasing by a staggering 46% in the last year

Over 7,300 disability hate crimes were reported to the police across England and Wales in 2019/20, yet only one in 62 cases actually received a charge from the police. The harrowing figures come from new research by leading disability charities Leonard Cheshire and United Response.

Findings from the joint investigation are today released ahead of National Hate Crime Awareness Week, which starts on Saturday 10 October. 

Two thirds of the 36 police forces that responded to the Freedom of Information (FOI) request reported increases in disability hate crimes in 2019/20. Just 12 forces reported drops in numbers for their region. And the shocking trend continued across the UK with an overall 11% increase in reports.

Worryingly, while nearly 21 crimes were reported to the police every day in England and Wales during 2019/20, an average of 10 crimes per day involved an act of violence against a disabled person, including assault and harassment.

Alice, from Monmouthshire, has seven children, a number of which have autism. As a family, they have been the victim of disability hate crime frequently. She said:

Most of our experiences have involved being yelled at or threatened when out as a family. People call us offensive names like ‘retard’ and ‘spastic’ and make us feel like we shouldn’t be part of the community. Our neighbour has also physically intimidated us because they find my son frightening and don’t want him out in his own garden. Now he not only feels isolated from the community, but his own garden too. Being told that your son is frightening to other people because of his condition is pretty awful.

Cyber abuse also continued to be endured by disabled people across online platforms like social media or gaming forums, with 1 in 10 reports of all disability hate crimes taking place online in 2019/20. However, these figures could just be the tip of the iceberg and with lockdown necessitating increased online communication, it is likely these figures will continue to rise next year. 

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.

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.

Terry McCorry, Leonard Cheshire’s disability hate crime advocate in Northern Ireland, commented:

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. Investment in better support like Leonard Cheshire’s advocacy service in Northern Ireland is essential in ensuring victims feel protected and empowered to take their experiences to the authorities. No one should have to feel unsafe in their home or community.

12-year-old Eva from England, who has cerebral palsy, was a victim of hate crime on her first trip to the park with a friend.

Two boys started cycling around us and teasing me about being in a wheelchair. It made me feel sad and a bit frightened.

Eva immediately logged the incident online and received a call from the police within an hour. “The police really supported me and followed up with me a couple of times after the event. I felt like they really took it seriously and understood how it affected me.”

Victims of disability hate crime should report it to their friends or family or call the police if it is safe to do so. They can also report it online.

Please note: Avon and Somerset Police made a change to their online hate crime figures after the cut-off date. This change is not reflected in the release.