Disability Hate Crime rises in Northern Ireland

Disability hate crimes in Northern Ireland are rising, according to figures obtained by Leonard Cheshire and United Response.

  • In 2022/23, disability hate crime reports in Northern Ireland rose by 10% on last year’s figure.
  • In 2022/23, more than 80% of disability hate crimes in NI involved violence.
  • In 2022/23, 13.7% of disability hate crimes in NI resulted in a charge or summons to court – a rate the significantly higher than the UK figure (1.3%).

The two charities found 102 disability hate crimes were reported in 2022/23, a 10% increase from 93 in the previous year.

Using figures obtained through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), the latest figures showed 85 (83.3%) of the reports involved violence around one in five (19 or 18.6%) took place online.

In 2022/2023, 13.7% of disability hate in Northern Ireland resulted in a charge or summons to court. The UK figure for cases resulting in a charge or summons is a shockingly low 1.3%.

The higher charge rate in Northern Ireland, which produces better outcomes for hate crime victims, could be a result of the Hate Crime Advocacy Service – a partnership involving Leonard Cheshire and several charities. The service works with victims of hate crime and hate incidents in Northern Ireland, receiving several referrals online.

Across the UK, the Leonard Cheshire and United Response research found that 11,434 disability hate crimes were reported between April 2022 and March 2023. The data showed roughly half of UK disability hate crime reports involved violence and over 1,300 took place online.

While total UK reports are down by 3.1% from the record numbers in 2021/22, the drop is small and the figures are still much higher than pre-pandemic levels. Because not all hate crimes are reported, their prevalence is severely underrepresented.

Despite the long-lasting impact of being targeted by a hate crime, the UK government announced it will not publish a new Hate Crime Strategy that was promised in 2021.

The two charities are calling on the UK government to reverse its decision to merge an anti-hate crime strategy into a wider plan to tackle general crime. The UK government must instead focus on developing and publishing a bespoke hate crime strategy, in close consultation with stakeholders and their families.

Leonard Cheshire and United Response commented on the findings:

“We need to narrow the justice gap between the number of disability hate crimes recorded and the number of offences resulting in a charge. There are real people behind these numbers and once a person has been a target of hate, they can be utterly changed.

“We are asking the UK government to rethink the plan not to publish a hate crime strategy. If they want to set targets for police responses to crime then disability hate crime should be a key focus, not brushed aside.

“Our research shows people want to help in a safe way. We need everyone to be allies in the fight against disability hate crime.”

Media enquiries

Notes to Editors

Research methodology

Disability charities Leonard Cheshire and United Response received Freedom of Information (FOI) responses to 45 police forces in the United Kingdom, including the PSNI. The responses covered disability hate crime in financial years 2021/22 and 2022/23.

Not every police force in the UK provided figures for each question asked, but 37 forces gave overall disability hate crime figures for their region – data which forms the bulk of this comparative study.

36 police forces across the UK provided intersectional figures.

28 police forces across the UK provided information about Disability Liaison Officers, with only two saying that they employed someone in this capacity. The PSNI does not employ a Disability Liaison Officer.

Most percentages included in this release have been rounded to the nearest whole figure.

Levels of disability hate crime reports were up in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

A full dataset is available upon request.

Key findings (Northern Ireland)

  • Total disability hate crimes
    • 2021/22: 93
    • 2022/23: 102
  • Total disability hate crimes involving violence
    • 2021/22: 79
    • 2022/23: 85
  • Total disability hate crimes recorded as taking place online
    • 2021/22: 11
    • 2022/23: 19
  • Total disability hate crimes resulting in a charge or summons
    • 2021/22: 8
    • 2022/23: 14
  • Intersectional crimes (crimes involving disability and at least one other protected characteristic)
    • 2021/22: 13
    • 2022/23: 0

The public poll figures are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,157 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 15th - 16th August 2023. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

About United Response

United Response is a top 100 national charity that provides person-centred support to around 2,000 adults and young people with learning disabilities, mental health needs or physical disabilities – including some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

Our vision is a society of equal rights and access where disabled people have the opportunity to live the lives they want to lead.

We provide bespoke support, from 24-hour care to a few hours a week, at around 400 locations across England and Wales. We employ approximately 4,000 staff and are regularly recognised with awards for our innovative, high quality range of services.

The Hate Crime Advocacy Service

The Hate Crime Advocacy Service |is delivered through an independent partnership, coordinated by Victim Support NI. It includes Advocates employed by Leonard Cheshire, Migrant Centre NI and The Rainbow Project.

The service supports people throughout Northern Ireland who have experienced hate crime and hate incidents, including people with protected characteristics. It accepts self-referrals and referrals from the police and other agencies.

The Hate Crime Advocacy Service is funded through the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and the Department of Justice.