New impetus needed to tackle disability hate crime

Crime
A new impetus is required to identify and tackle disability hate crime, according to a new Criminal Justice Joint Inspectorate report.


Police fail fully to consider disability hate crime issues in day-to-day investigative work; the CPS needs to improve case preparation to ensure effective prosecution; courts are not being reminded of their powers of sentencing; and the probation trusts are not being given good enough information in preparing pre-sentence reports, the
report concluded.

There were 1,744 disability hate crimes reported by the police in 2011-12, despite approximately 21% of the population being disabled. Figures are low, said the report, because the criminal justice system was unable “to combat prevalent social attitudes and to deal effectively with cases that can have inherent complexities”. The issue of under-reporting could be ameliorated by the use of intermediaries, the Inspectorate recommended.

There is no separate disability hate crime offence, but s 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 makes it an aggravating factor in sentencing if the defendant demonstrates, or is motivated by, hostility towards a victim who has a disability. One of the report’s main recommendations is that the police, CPS and probation trusts should adopt a single, clear definition of disability hate crime that is communicated effectively to the public and staff. Advocates should refer to s 146 as part of the sentencing process, where appropriate.

Despite a CPS flagging system for disability hate crime, of the files inspected for this report, 19.1% were flagged incorrectly; and of those that were correctly flagged, 47.5% were thought to have no prospect of the facts satisfying the s 146 definition. In addition, although CPS policy requires that a victim be offered a meeting with the prosecutor when an application is made for special measures, in order to build trust and confidence, there was no evidence in any of the files examined that offers were being made for meetings. Over a third of lawyers who answered the inspection team’s survey confirmed that they had not received any training in relation to disability hate crime and less than 20% described their knowledge levels of special measures as “very thorough”.

The report was published on 21 March and can be seen in full at www.hmcpsi.gov.uk/cjji/

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