Disability Hate Crime rises in Scotland

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

  • 592 disability hate crime reports in Scotland in 2022/23, rising from 550 in 2021/22 (+7.6%).
  • Poll indicates 66% of the British public think people should offer to be a witness if they saw a disability hate crime.

Using figures obtained through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to Police Scotland, the two charities found that 592 disability hate crimes were reported between April 2022 and March 2023, a rise of 7.6% on the previous year.

The 2022/2023 data showed 49 (8.3%) of the reports involved violence and 146 (26.5%) were intersectional hate crimes involving other protected characteristics such as race, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity.

Across the UK, the two charities found that 11,434 disability hate crimes were reported between April 2022 and March 2023.

The data showed roughly half of these UK reports involved violence and just under 10% were intersectional hate crimes. While UK disability hate crime reports are down by 3.1% from the record numbers of incidents in 2021/22, the drop is small and the figures are still much higher than pre-pandemic pandemic levels.

Despite the UK drop in hate crime reports, just 1.3% resulted in a charge or CPS referral.

The charities commissioned a YouGov poll to discover more about public attitudes to combatting hate crime in Britain. When asked about witnessing a disability hate crime, 86% of the British public think people should offer support to the victim if safe to do so. Of those who believe people should offer their support to victims of hate crimes, 76% think people should offer to be a witness.

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 disability 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 Police Scotland. 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. Police Scotland 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 Scotland and Northern Ireland.

A full dataset is available upon request.

Key findings (Scotland)

  • Total disability hate crimes
    • 2021/22: 550
    • 2022/23: 592
  • Total disability hate crimes involving violence
    • 2021/22: 54
    • 2022/23: 49
  • Intersectional crimes (crimes involving disability and at least one other protected characteristic)
    • 2021/22: 115
    • 2022/23: 146

The public poll figures are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,157 adults.

Fieldwork was undertaken between 15 - 16 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.