Disability hate crime rising, but few cases make it to court

More than 5,000 disability hate crimes were reported to police in 2018/19 yet few cases result in prosecution, figures obtained by disability charity Leonard Cheshire has shown.

  • Disability hate crime levels up 22%, with over half (51%) involving violence in 2018/19
  • There’s also been a 71% rise in online disability hate crime
  • Despite this, only 6% of total disability hate crime cases across England and Wales could be confirmed as sent to the Crown Prosecution Service or having received a charge or summons in 2018/19.
  • Around 84% of cases in the same period went nowhere, not even receiving a caution.

Violent hate crimes against disabled people were significantly up across forces in England and Wales, and this could just be the tip of the iceberg.

Overall recorded disability hate crime is up by 22%, from 4,111 crimes in 2017/18 to 5,015 in 2018/19. More than half  (51%) of these cases in 2018/19 involved violence and almost all (92%) of forces reported increasing levels of violence against disabled people. 

The vast majority (84%) of hate crime cases in 2018/19 went nowhere, resulting in no charge or caution. Many of these cases were dropped due to lack of evidence or no suspect identified. In 2017/18, around 82% of cases faced a similar fate. Just 7% of cases received a caution or community resolution in 2018/19, while a mere 6% could be confirmed as either sent to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for charging or as having received a charge or summons.

Leonard Cheshire submitted Freedom of Information requests to all 43 police forces in England and Wales. Over half the forces provided full answers and if indicative of national trends, these could put levels of disability hate crime in the region of 10,000 incidents per year.

A woman who was supported by Leonard Cheshire’s hate crime advocacy service and wished to remain anonymous said:

“Our experience [of hate crime] took over our lives. We felt isolated, afraid and alone all of the time.

‘We went from being active, independent adults to our children no longer wanting to leave us at home on our own. We were embarrassed to have visitors come to our home because of what would happen.

‘This experience claimed many years of our lives [that] we will never get back. [We] were treated like prisoners trapped in our home surrounded by those who wished us harm simply because they hated us.

‘This was a very dark period of our lives, leaving us emotional scars which we will always carry with us. Leonard Cheshire was the only ones who offered us help, support and a listening ear and for that we will always be grateful.’ 

Under existing guidance, hate crimes should be referred to the CPS for a charging decision. The disability hate crime 2017/18 figures from the CPS revealed that while successfully completed prosecutions with an announced and recorded sentence uplift for disability hate were rising, referrals from police were falling. 

The charity also found disabled people are facing increasing abuse online, with cyber disability hate crimes rising 71% from 201 in 2017/18 to 344 in 2018/19. 

Leonard Cheshire CEO Neil Heslop said:

‘Hate crime against disabled people is significantly up with worrying increases in violent offences.

‘Low prosecution levels are unacceptable and disabled people will feel a sense of injustice.

‘Government and police forces must overcome barriers to successful case outcomes for survivors and perpetrators must be brought to account. Hate crime is devastating and more advocacy services like the one Leonard Cheshire runs in Belfast are needed to support survivors.’

Leonard Cheshire hate crime advocate Terence McCorry said:

‘Disability Hate Crime is targeting the most isolated and vulnerable people, many of whom do not know where to turn for support.

‘Persistent crimes and incidents aimed at disabled people will leave them feeling unsafe in their homes and community, living in a constant state of alert and hypervigilance for the next attack. Disability hate crime is wrong.’

Joshua Reeves, campaign support officer for Leonard Cheshire, said:

‘Hate crime to me is hugely cutting and it should be taken more seriously by law enforcers.

‘When I see disability hate crime happen and experience it myself, it makes me realise that we live in a world where there are cruel and wicked people out there. The earth should be peaceful for all fellow humans.’

The charity also continues to warn that with many survivors feeling unable to come forward, many more hate crimes remain unreported.

Media enquiries

For further information, regional data and interview requests, please contact: Claire Farrell, claire.farrell@leonardcheshire.org and Erin O'Reilly erin.o'reilly@leonardcheshire.org or call: 020 3242 0399. 

For out of hours requests please call 07903 949 388 or email samuel.buckley@leonardcheshire.org

Notes to editors

Freedom of Information request: 

Leonard Cheshire sent an FOI request to all 43 police forces across England and Wales in July 2019. 

  • 25 forces provided answers to all of our 5 questions
  • 8 forces provided partial results
  • 6 police forces have not yet provided results
  • 4 rejected our FOI request

The 25 full data sets revealed:

Disability hate crime 

  • 17/18 — 4111
  • 18/19 — 5015
  • Overall increase: 22%

Involving violence 

  • 17/18 — 1805
  • 18/19 — 2538
  • Overall increase: 41%

Percentage of hate crimes involving violence

  • 17/18 — 44%
  • 18/19 — 51%

Involving an online element 

  • 17/18 — 201
  • 18/19 — 344
  • Overall increase: 71%

(All 25 forces that gave full data but Sussex and Devon and Cornwall could provide online hate crime data)

Number of cases with a confirmed CPS referral, charge, summons or postal requisition

  • 17/18 — 330
  • 18/19 — 293

As a percentage of overall cases

  • 17/18 — 8%
  • 18/19 — 6%

Number of confirmed out of court disposals (cautions, community resolutions, youth restorative orders etc) across applicable forces 

  • 17/18 — 324
  • 18/19 — 351

Number of cases with ‘other outcome’: this reflects cases where there was no out of court disposal, charge and/or CPS referral, due to, for example, evidential difficulties, no suspect identified, victim not willing, timeframe lapsed. For some forces this was estimated by subtracting confirmed charges and out of court disposals from total cases and therefore this figure overall is 'in the region of' rather than exact.

  • 17/18 — in the region of: 3358
  • 18/19 — in the region of: 4197

As a percentage of overall cases

  • 17/18 — in the region of 82%
  • 18/19 — in the region of 84%

A note on the 25 full datasets

Some forces complied with the exact FOI question and provided number of cases receiving CPS referrals and cases receiving out of court disposals. Other forces could not provide CPS referral data but did provide full case outcomes, revealing the number of cases to receive charging, summons or postal requisition and many confirmed CPS involvement in those outcomes.

Some of these forces also could provide insight into outcomes where there had been a CPS referral that had not resulted in a charge. However, for some forces, where case outcome could be revealed but CPS involvement not, there may be cases that were referred to CPS but did not get a charge/summons/postal requisition; this therefore cannot be reflected in our data.

For this reason our data is highlighting only confirmed CPS referrals or charges, summons or postal requisitions for the forces surveyed.

A note on the partial data- these are excluded from our total figures

  • Bedfordshire- Provided all data but not case outcomes/CPS referrals for disability hate crime and flagged concerns about accuracy of some of the data.
  • Dorset- Provided all data but not case outcomes/CPS referrals for disability hate crime.
  • Hampshire-Provided only overall hate crime data 2017/18 and 2018/19.
  • Humberside- Provided all data but not case outcomes/CPS referrals for disability hate crime.
  • Lancashire- Provided only overall hate crime data for 2017/18 and 2018/19.
  • Norfolk- Provided data on hate crime levels, online hate crime levels and violence for 2018/19 but not for 2017/18 and no case outcomes/CPS referrals for either year.
  • Northumbria- Provided data on hate crime levels, online hate crime levels and violence but not case outcomes/CPS referrals.
  • Suffolk- Provided data on hate crime levels, online hate crime levels and violence for 2018/19 but not for 2017/18 and no case outcomes/CPS referrals for either year.

For the full data for these and any other forces please contact Claire.farrell@leonardcheshire.org or erin.o'reilly@leonardcheshire.org.

About Leonard Cheshire advocacy services

The service we provide in Northern Ireland revolves around a person-centred approach to survivors, which is very important as many survivors of online disability hate crime have had poor experiences in the past when reporting crime.

Through listening, providing information and signposting the survivor to appropriate support agencies, the advocate aims to increase the survivor’s confidence.

This has helped increase the confidence of disabled people who experience these crimes to come forward and report them.