Reports of violent disability hate crime continue to rise as number of police charges fall again

Over 7,300 disability hate crimes were reported to the police across England and Wales in 2019/20, yet only 1 in 62 cases actually received a charge. [1]

  • Reports of disability hate crime are up 12% across 36 regions in England and Wales in 2019/20, but only 1.6% of cases resulted in the perpetrators being charged.
  • Nearly half (3,628) of the reports to police involved an element of violence, rising by 16%.
  • 1 in 10 of all reported disability hate crimes took place online, increasing by a staggering 46% in the last year.

The harrowing figures come from new research by leading disability charities Leonard Cheshire and United Response.

Findings from the joint investigation are today released ahead of National Hate Crime Awareness Week, which starts on Saturday 10 October.

Two thirds of the 36 police forces that responded to the Freedom of Information (FOI) request reported increases in disability hate crimes in 2019/20. Just 12 forces reported drops in numbers for their region. And the shocking trend continued across the UK with an overall 11% increase in reports. [2]

Worryingly, while nearly 21 crimes were reported to the police every day in England and Wales during 2019/20, an average of 10 crimes per day involved an act of violence against a disabled person, including assault and harassment. [3]

Alice, from Monmouthshire, has seven children, a number of which have autism. As a family, they have been the victim of disability hate crime frequently. “Most of our experiences have involved being yelled at or threatened when out as a family,” she explained.

“People call us offensive names like ‘r*****’ and ‘s******’ and make us feel like we shouldn’t be part of the community. Our neighbour has also physically intimidated us because they find my son frightening and don’t want him out in his own garden. Now he not only feels isolated from the community, but his own garden too. Being told that your son is frightening to other people because of his condition is pretty awful.”

Cyber abuse also continued to be endured by disabled people across online platforms like social media or gaming forums, with 1 in 10 reports of all disability hate crimes taking place online in 2019/20. However, these figures could just be the tip of the iceberg and with lockdown necessitating increased online communication, it is likely these figures will continue to rise next year. 

Working together to raise awareness about the impact of disability hate crime, Leonard Cheshire and United Response commented:

“As this abhorrent crime continues to rise year on year, it’s time for the authorities, government and online platforms to start taking this damaging behaviour more seriously.

"Offenders must face appropriate repercussions and be educated on the impact of their cowardly acts, while increased funding for advocacy services is also urgently needed.

"Victims need to have better access to support across the entire reporting, investigative and judicial process. This is the only way to make victims feel safe and confident in reporting these crimes to the police, helping lead to more concrete charges and ultimately convictions. 

“With online hate crime showing no signs of slowing down, provisions also need to be made to make the internet a less threatening place for disabled people with effective monitoring and recording of hateful activity. Disabled people must also be involved in the development of digital strategies to help ensure this type of damaging behaviour doesn’t slip through the cracks.”

The two charities are encouraging people to show solidarity with victims of disability hate crime by pledging to call out hate crime on online platforms and be an ally to those that need support. 

Terry McCorry, Leonard Cheshire’s disability hate crime advocate in Northern Ireland, commented:

“This intolerable crime can seriously impact the lives of disabled people who are already marginalised by society. Social isolation can be a huge issue for disabled people and disability hate crime only serves to make people feel more reluctant to get out and about.

"Investment in better support like Leonard Cheshire’s advocacy service in Northern Ireland is essential in ensuring victims feel protected and empowered to take their experiences to the authorities. No one should have to feel unsafe in their home or community.” 

12-year-old Eva from England, who has cerebral palsy, was a victim of hate crime on her first trip to the park with a friend. “Two boys started cycling around us and teasing me about being in a wheelchair. It made me feel sad and a bit frightened.”

Eva immediately logged the incident online and received a call from the police within an hour. “The police really supported me and followed up with me a couple of times after the event. I felt like they really took it seriously and understood how it affected me.” 

Victims of disability hate crime should report it to their friends or family or call the police if it is safe to do so. They can also report it online.

Say no to disability hate crime

Join us in our pledge this National Hate Crime Awareness Week to drive down disability hate crime on social media and support victims.

Sign our social media pledge

Media enquiries

For further information please contact Erin O’Reilly via erin.o’ or 020 3242 0342.

Notes to editors

  • [1] Only 1.6% of disability hate crimes in England and Wales received a police charge, postal requisition or court summons in 2019/20, a further drop from 2.7% in 2018/19. 
  • [2] Police Scotland reported a 2.3% rise while the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) recorded a 35.8% rise in overall levels.
  • [3] 69% of forces reported an increase in violent disability hate crimes and nearly half (3,628) of all reports to the police last year contained an element of violence. 

There was a steep 46% rise in online disability hate crime in 2018/19.

Freedom of Information request

  • Leonard Cheshire sent an FOI request to all 43 police forces across England and Wales in July 2020 requesting data from 18/19 and 19/20
  • 36 forces provided answers to the main 4 questions
  • 2 police forces provided partial results
  • 3 police forces have not yet provided results
  • 2 rejected our FOI request

Please note, Avon and Somerset Police made a change to their online hate crime figures after the cut out off date. This is not reflected in the release. 

The 36 full data sets in England and Wales

Disability hate crime overall figures

  • 18/19 - 6579
  • 19/20 - 7333
  • 11.5% increase

Reports involving acts of violence 

  • 18/19 - 3131
  • 19/20 - 3628
  • 15.9% increase

Reports with an online element

  • 18/19 - 542
  • 19/20 - 789
  • 45.6% increase 

Number of cases receiving a charge, postal requisition or court summons

  • 18/19 - 179
  • 19/20 - 118
  • Percentage change - 34.1% decrease 

Overall charge rate

  • 18/19 - 2.7%
  • 19/20 - 1.6%

Data from Police Scotland revealed:

Disability hate crime overall figures

  • 18/19 - 261
  • 19/20 - 267
  • 2.3% increase

Data from Police Service of Northern Ireland revealed:

Disability hate crime overall figures

  • 18/19 - 53
  • 19/20 - 72
  • 35.8% increase

Association of Chief Police Officers and Crown Prosecution definition of a Hate Crime:

The Association of Chief Police Officers and the CPS have agreed a common definition of hate crime:

"Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person's race or perceived race; religion or perceived religion; sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation; disability or perceived disability and any crime motivated by hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender."

In March 2017 the UK Government announced that updated relationships and sex education (RSE) would be made compulsory for all schools in England.

In England and Wales the monitored strands of hate crime are: racially and religiously aggravated; homophobic, biphobic and transphobic; and disability hate crime.

These strands are covered by legislation (sections 28-32 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and sections 145 and 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003) which allows prosecutors to apply for an uplift in sentence for those convicted of a hate crime.

Online hate crime

Social media firms told the charities that they are under 'no obligation' to share the extent and nature of abusive language on their platforms, and that not even they 'know the extent of disability hate crime online'.

Law Commission – Reform of the Communications Offences

The Law Commission is conducting a consultation as part of a proposal to reform the communications offences, better defining what is considered ‘grossly offensive’ or ‘indecent communication’ and addressing “pile on” harassment so it can be applied to existing criminal offences.

The proposals include a move to criminalise behaviour where a communication would likely cause harm. This would include emails, social media posts and WhatsApp messages.

Organisations and members of the public are encouraged to feed into this consultation by visiting:

The consultation is open until December 2020.

About United Response:

United Response is a top 100 national charity that provides person-centred support to 3,000 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 350 locations across England and Wales. We employ approximately 3,500 staff and are regularly recognised with awards for our innovative, high quality range of services.