#005/2013 – A joint review of disability hate crime: living in a different world

Victims of disability hate crime are being let down by the criminal justice system, and progress to improve their experience of reporting offences has been too slow, an independent report has found. A joint inspection of the police, probation and Crown Prosecution Service has uncovered a lack of understanding of what classifies as a disability hate crime and confusion around how this type of offence should be recorded and investigated. Although acknowledging some progress has been made, inspectors recommend all agencies must do more to ensure that disability hate crime is treated on an equal footing with other hate crimes, and that victims have the confidence to report crimes.

‘Living in a different world: A joint review of disability hate crime’ details the findings of a joint inspection by HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate, HMIC and HM Inspectorate of Probation. Inspectors wanted to find out how the police, CPS and probation trusts deal with crimes against disabled people. This involved reviewing how the three agencies work and revealed problems in the detection and recording of crimes targeted against people because of their disability.

The inspection found a lack of clarity and understanding as to what constitutes disability hate crime and confusion between policy definitions and the statutory sentencing provision contained within Section 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003. The report recommends a common definition that is universally recognised and applied at ‘ground level’ that is simple to interpret.

The immediate priority should be to encourage more people to come forward to report disability hate crime. The under reporting of disability hate crime remains a significant concern and needs to be addressed. Whilst community engagement projects are currently undertaken by the police and CPS, these need to be jointly co-ordinated, and have specific aims.

Inspectors found that:

  • Many police forces do not have in place an approach that supported disabled victims from the point of call through to the case being considered at court, and that there were gaps in identification, communication and partnership working which all contributed to limitations in how these victims are dealt with.
  • CPS lawyers display a lack of clarity in indentifying and analysing offences, and sometimes fail to obtain sufficient evidence from the police in order to identify disability hate crimes.
  • Disability hate crime must have a higher priority with the work of the probation trusts, and they should address needs of offenders who have committed disability hate crimes.

Chief Inspector of HM Crown Prosecution Service, Michael Fuller QPM, said on behalf of all the inspectorates:

“This report finds that in many ways Disability Hate Crime is the hate crime that has been overlooked. The criminal justice system must therefore change to provide an improved service for those with disabilities.”

ENDS

For further information, please contact Bernie Caffarey, HMCPSI press office on 0207 271 2440.

Notes to editors

  1. A copy of the full report can be found on our website from 21 March 2013: at https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmicfrs/publications/living-in-a-different-world-joint-review-of-disability-hate-crime/
  2. Inspectors visited six police forces and the CPS/probation trust offices that were based at those areas – Cleveland, Cumbria, Derbyshire, Hertfordshire, Greater Manchester and West Midlands. The locations represented a mixture of metropolitan and more rural populations. Within each area interviews took place with staff of various grades from each agency. Where appropriate CPS staff who were responsible for disability hate crime matters in that area (but not located at the relevant office) were also interviewed. The inspection team
    also interviewed representatives from the Witness Care Units, Victim Support/Witness Service and a number of independent disability advocates. Three focus groups were held involving disabled people. Representatives from the judiciary in each of the locations were also spoken to.
  3. Inspectors observed seven court hearings across the country. These cases had been identified on the CPS computer system as being disability hate crimes. Where appropriate the victims and lawyers involved were interviewed.
  4. The CPS computer system was used to identify disability hate crime files in each of the six areas. The CPS supplied 89 files to be inspected. On review, inspectors were of the view that 61 of the files could be regarded as cases where (at charging) there should have been a consideration of the disability hate crime issue. The sample group was therefore 61 files. The majority were finalised files, although a number were examined on site as they were files currently being prosecuted.
  5. The details of the 61 files were passed to HMIC and HMI Probation. Those same files (where possible) were reviewed by the relevant inspectors against a set criteria.
  6. Interviews were held with national representatives from ACPO, CPS and NOMS who were responsible for disability hate crime.
  7. Interviews were also carried out with representatives from Mencap, Voice UK, Scope, the UK Disabled People’s Council, two Directors of Adult Social Care, a Director of Community Nursing Services and the lead commissioner for the Equality and Human Rights Commission inquiry into disability related harassment.
  8. HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate is an independent statutory body established by the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate Act 2000, which came into force on 01 October 2000. The Chief Inspector is appointed by, and reports to, the Attorney General.
  9. HM Inspectorate of Probation is an independent inspectorate, sponsored by the Ministry of Justice, and reporting directly to the Secretary of State on the effectiveness of work with individual adults, children and young people who offend, aimed at reducing re-offending and protecting the public.
  10. HMIC inspects and regulates all 43 police forces in England and Wales together with other major policing bodies such as the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the British Transport Police and HMRC.