Are disability hate crimes and disability hate incidents different?
Rachel helps to clear up the crucial difference between hate crimes and hate incidents.
I am a writer and poet from Leeds. I am also a disabled person and a campaigner. For a while now, I’ve been speaking and writing about disability hate crime.
People facing hate crimes and hate incidents can be targeted because of their:
race, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity or disability. While this article focuses on disabled people, I hope it will help all victims of hate.
Understanding the difference between a “hate crime” and a “hate incident” is important. Avoiding confusion is crucial. It will help people understand what they’ve been through and help them get the best outcomes.
What is a disability hate crime?
A disability hate crime occurs when a crime takes place, and there is hostility to disabled people involved as well.
So we might have a crime where somebody steals from someone while shouting abuse relating to a person’s disability. As well as the crime of theft, this can be prosecuted as a disability hate crime.
As the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) tells us, any crime can be prosecuted as a disability hate crime “if the offender has either:
- demonstrated hostility based on disability,
- been motivated by hostility based on disability.”
What is a disability hate incident?
Firstly, we have non-crime incidents. But this alone is not enough to be a hate incident.
A non-crime incident is an event “which disturbs an individual, group or community’s quality of life or causes them concern”.
So, for a disability hate incident to occur, a crime does not need to have taken place. However, to become a disability hate incident, an incident must again involve hostility to disabled people.
The document seems to invite the police to say that many incidents do not involve a “real risk” of harm or future crime. So, all of this seems to be an attempt by the Home Office to make sure fewer hate incidents are recorded.
Hate Incidents: threshold raised
For an incident to be recorded by police as a disability hate incident, it must meet the latest government guidelines (published in June 2023). These guidelines state what is already well understood.
Nevertheless, they say a hate incident must also involve “a real risk of significant harm” to disabled people and/or “a real risk that a future criminal offence may be committed” against disabled people.
The full guidelines do say that some groups, including disabled people, are more at risk of harm. However, the bar is now clearly raised for a hate incident. The document seems to invite the police to say that many incidents do not involve a “real risk” of harm or future crime.
So, all of this seems to be an attempt by the Home Office to make sure fewer hate incidents are recorded.
We would encourage everyone who has experienced a hate incident or hate crime to report their experiences to the police or, if not, a charity such as Victim Support. You can find more organisations in our 2022 policy report on the final pages.
Where do hate crimes and incidents happen?
Hate crimes can happen anywhere, including in a person’s home. I’ve found that, sadly, transport is a hotspot for hate crime. This is why I’ve been working closely with West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) to reduce hate crime on buses.
Increasing understanding – for me and for others
It’s helpful to map out the difference between a hate crime and a hate incident. And there are more ways for people to boost their understanding. Check out the latest research from Leonard Cheshire and United Response.
The importance of allies
We need more allies in our fight against disability hate crime. If you come across a hate incident or hate crime, you might want to offer support by recording what you witness or telling the person involved what you saw.
Meanwhile, please find out what you can by reading the latest research.