Police admission of disability hate crime failure ‘not enough’ – Disability News Service | Tech US News

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Disability campaigners have called for action to tackle systemic failings in the criminal justice system and serious failings by police leadership which have led to a “worrying” drop in disability hate crime prosecutions.

From 2016 to 2017, the number of disability hate crime prosecutions in England and Wales fell from 1,009 a year to just 345.

A key reason for the drop is a huge drop in the number of disability hate crime cases referred by the police to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for charges, which fell from 924 in 2014-15 to just 243 last year.

In recent weeks, the Disability News Service (DNS) has published interviews with disability hate crime leaders from the CPS and the National Council of Chief Police Officers, with both admitting they need to improve their organisation’s performance.

Now two leading disability activists with expertise in disability hate crime have responded to those interviews.

Dr David Wilkin (on picture), an honorary fellow at the University of Leicester’s Faculty of Criminology and author of a book on disability hate crime in public transport, said it was “not enough for the NPCC to admit a mistake”.

He said: “Mistakes by police leadership were responsible for the botched investigations into Stephen Lawrence, responsible for the Fiona Pilkington tragedy and continue to be responsible for reported misogyny and other crimes in some police forces.

“It is not enough for police chiefs to admit failure – wouldn’t it be better for them not to have failed at all?

“We have around 30 years of experience dealing with hate crime in the UK, this is nothing new.

“Yet our police leaders don’t seem to get it, they don’t seem to act and they don’t seem to be able to offer change.”

Wilkin, co-ordinator of the Disability Hate Crime Network, told DNS: “I shudder to think of another ‘lessons learned’ speech after an attack on a disabled person.

“Maybe it’s time to think about how we choose leaders in the police?”

Wilkin added: “We have reached a point where the police are neglecting disabled people when reporting hate crimes for whatever reason.

“While academics like myself are urging disabled people to report these crimes, it seems to make little sense if the police don’t investigate them, bag them and send them to the CPS to prosecute.

“The police are the entry point into the criminal justice system for those who need justice – and why shouldn’t they?

“They are citizens, taxpayers, living in fear, in isolation and under strict restrictions.”

Wilkin said hate crimes remain “a barrier to everyday life for many people with disabilities”.

He added: “They have a right to justice and for the police to block the way to that is unacceptable.”

Louise Holden, head of hate crime partnership at Inclusion London, said she believed the national failure of both the police and the CPS indicated “systemic issues” that needed to be addressed.

She said: “As with any crime, the victim needs to have confidence that they will be taken seriously, that the crime will be properly investigated and that enough evidence will be gathered for a successful conviction.

“These are all things that people would expect to be happening, but we are finding that while there has been an improvement in the policing of disability hate crime, there is no evidence being collected to take to the CPS for prosecution.

“Regardless of the current pressures on the Metropolitan Police Service and the CPS, there are so many cases that do not come to court.

“It means that so many disabled victims who were brave enough to report it feel they have been let down.

“It sends a message to the disability community that what happens to you doesn’t matter, you don’t matter.”

Holden pointed out that disabled people currently have the lowest levels of satisfaction with the Metropolitan Police of any demographic group, while recent investigations by the Independent Office for Police Conduct show a “can-do attitude by officers” which “definitely impacts on our community’s trust in the police”.

She said: “I would encourage any affected victim to contact their local DDPO* for ongoing support.

“Even if the case does not go to court, the consequences can be devastating and long-term.

“DDPOs can help with the aftermath of a hate crime and help someone feel more connected and supported.”

*Organization of the deaf and disabled

Editor’s note:

Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and enable it to continue producing independent, carefully researched news that focuses on the lives and rights of people with disabilities and their user-led organisations.

Don’t donate if you can’t afford it, and note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been around since launching in April 2009.

Thanks for anything you can do to support the DNS work…

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