Carol Burt, of I Am Me, a community project which raises awareness of disability hate crime discusses the extent of the problem and the group’s initiatives to raise awareness of it.
Disability hate crime is recognised as one of the most under reported crimes in the UK, with an estimated 97 per cent currently thought to be going unreported.
The Equality Human Rights Commission refer to disability hate crime as hidden in plain sight as most incidents go unnoticed and unreported.
Many incidents such as harassment, name calling and vandalism are often described as young people being silly or low level anti social behaviour, but are the connections being made?
Many people do not understand the impact that incidents can have on an individual and in many cases can lead to harm, social isolation and can even result in murder.
Sadly many disabled people do not report incidents to the police. This can be for many reasons, including fear of repercussion, unsure how to report incidents, fear of not being believed or simply because they have learned to accept abuse and harassment as part of normal daily life.
There are many documented cases where police have attended incidents, housing staff have recorded anti social behaviour, social work have noted concerns but cases have not been pursued and prosecutions have not been made.
Unfortunately the failure to link disability, possible vulnerability and incidents and can result in murder, for example;
Gemma Hayter, Bijan Ebrahimi, Steven Hoskins, Albert Adams, Raymond Atherton, Kevin Davies, Christopher Foulkes, Steven Gale, Colin Greenwood, Frankie Hardwick, Shaowei He, Barrie-John Horrell, Steven Hoskin, Rikki Judkins, Christine Lakinski, Brent Martin, Sean Miles, Laura Milne, Keith Philpott, Fiona Pilkington, William Ripsher.
There are around 1 million people in Scotland registered as disabled or with a long term illness (Census 2013).
There are around 26,000 adults with learning disabilities known to Scottish local authorities.
This equates to 5.9 people with learning disabilities per 1000 people in the general population.
Some studies estimate that around 90 per cent of people with a learning disability have suffered harassment or bullying within the preceding year.
In 2014/15 the Crown Office published that 177 charges were reported with an aggravation of prejudice relating to disability. If this figure was a more accurate reflection of the number of crimes thought to be committed, it would be expected that around 5,700 hate crimes would be reported in Scotland every year, the number of incidents reported to police (not resulting in criminal proceedings would be much higher) .
The Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland QC acknowledges that although the number of hate crimes reported to the police continue to rise every year, there is still more work needing done to raise awareness of disability hate crime and to encourage people to report incidents to both the police and to the Procurator Fiscal.
I Am Me (Scotland) recently launched a new hard hitting I Am Me film and training pack which was developed in collaboration with Police Scotland, COPFS, disability groups and young people.
Both initiatives are available free of charge for any group to use and can be accessed at www.iammescotland.co.uk