Victims of disability hate crime are still being let down, report claims
Victims of disability hate crimes are being failed by police, prosecutors and the probation service, according to a report by inspectors.
Despite earlier recommendations on improving the way criminal justice agencies help those targeted and attempts to drive up the reporting of incidents, it found that insufficient progress has been made.
The combined report by HM inspectorates of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), police and probation is a follow-up . It said none of these services have complied fully with changes ordered by an earlier inquiry.
Disability hate crime has been the subject of heightened concern following high-profile cases such as that of in 2007 after Leicestershire police failed to investigate the years of torment they endured.
The report said: “Although this follow-up report has identified some examples of good practice relating to awareness raising at a national level, neither the police nor the CPS has succeeded in significantly improving performance at an operational level.”
The National Offender Management Service has provided direction by issuing guidance to probation trusts and frontline staff, it noted, but disability hate crime is still “not dealt with effectively overall by the probation service”.
Among the examples of problems the report highlighted was the case of a man with learning disabilities who was repeatedly threatened at knifepoint and robbed of his disability allowance. The case had been passed backwards and forwards between two police departments without either “taking any action to safeguard the victim or apprehend the offender”.
In another incident, officers detained a care worker in a residential home for people with severe learning disabilities who allegedly assaulted a resident, but other residents had not been approached to check whether they had also been victims of the care worker.
Crime recording practices were also found to be unreliable. In one force, a disability hate crime was reported when a brick was thrown through the window of a house belonging to a woman with mental health problems while she was in a psychiatric hospital. When the same thing happened two weeks later, it was not recorded as a disability hate crime and no link was made to the previous incident.
The report said: “The 2013 review highlighted that disability hate crime is a complex area with a number of unique features. It called for a new impetus that focused on improving awareness of disability hate crime, increasing the reporting of disability hate crime and embedding disability hate crime processes within the routine working practices of police, CPS and probation staff.
“The seven recommendations, if implemented effectively, would have made a substantial contribution to achieving these overarching aims. This follow-up reveals that there has been insufficient progress made against the recommendations. An opportunity to achieve improvements in the criminal justice system for all members of society has not yet been taken.”
HM inspectorate chief inspector, Kevin McGinty, said: “The report’s conclusions show that although the three criminal justice agencies have undertaken some initiatives to improve the way they deal with disability hate crime, the overall performance, acknowledged by all agencies, is still disappointing.”
Drusilla Sharpling, an inspector at HM inspectorate of constabulary, said: “There has been work nationally to drive up reporting levels of disability hate crime and improve standards of service to victims but progress continues to depend on how well this is implemented locally. We did find some good practice, but criminal justice agencies did not consistently recognise disability hate crime and respond effectively.”
HM inspectorate of probation chief inspector, Paul Wilson, said: “We were pleased to see that the quality of information supplied by the CPS to probation officers writing court reports was good. This means that the nature of the hate crime can be taken into account by sentencers. Despite this, work with the small numbers of perpetrators of disability hate crime had not improved since the original inspection.”
Responding to the report, Peter Lewis, the chief executive of the CPS, David Tucker, the crime and criminal justice lead at the College of Policing, and chief constable Simon Cole, the National Chiefs Council lead for disability, said they were disappointed by the progress.
In a joint statement, they said: “Disability hate crime is an appalling type of offending. It can have a huge impact on individual lives and undermine trust in society ... We must continue to improve our response.
“It’s disappointing that the measures put in place to build confidence among those who experience disability hate crime has not led to a significant increase in reporting. While reporting rates in England and Wales are higher than in other countries, we recognise that there is a need to make further progress.
“The College of Policing has published comprehensive guidance and in 2014 the CPS launched a new disability hate crime action plan. Better training aims to increase awareness among officers and staff throughout the criminal justice system.”