“The law is discriminatory”: Disability campaigners call for government to back hate crime victims

Adam Pearson is an actor, presenter and campaigner. Credit: ITV News

Disability campaigners across the West Country are calling on the Government to fix loopholes in the current law, which discriminates against disabled victims of hate crime.

More than 17,000 disability hate crimes were reported last year, a 211% rise in just five years - but the number of cases being prosecuted has fallen by 67%.

Victims across the UK say that getting justice under the current law is difficult and inconsistent.

Carol King, chair of charity Mencap in Torbay, told ITV West Country that in order for disabled people to feel heard, significant changes need to happen.

She said: “The fact that there’s a disparity in the number of prosecutions highlights a discrimination and it’s important that we make that level.

“Those that have a disability will feel that the law is being fairer when they bring the cases to the court and it will help.

“Hate crime causes difficulties in things like self-esteem and mental health and general wellbeing, and over a continued period of time can cause an individual to present challenging behaviour which is a burden to the already heavily pushed social care system.

“I think not only will new legislation help their mental health, but it means that victims will have better trust in the system."

Adam Pearson is a well-known actor and disability rights campaigner.

People often make comments as "a bit of a laugh" or "just a joke", Adam said, however "slowly but surely they chip away at you."

After a government-sponsored review of the existing rules, a report from the Law Commission was released in December 2021 announcing recommendations to reform hate crime legislation.

Professor Penney Lewis, Commissioner for Criminal law told ITV: “At the moment there’s a hierarchy, with race at the top and disability and transgender at the bottom.

“We think all characteristics should be treated the same, so there should be the possibility of someone being punished for a hate crime they’ve committed the same way, regardless of whether it was racial hatred, religious hatred or hatred on the basis of disability.”

As well as simplifying the law, they want to empower victims to report abuse. A move welcomed by Ben Morris, a disability equality campaigner from Swindon.

He told ITV West Country: “There’s a massive stigma anyway around disability in society and people shouldn’t feel like they can get away with a hate crime against a disabled person.

“I feel that if it was levelled up to the level of protection victims of racial hate crime have, it would give disabled people a lot more confidence.”

In a statement, the home office told ITV News they will ‘carefully consider the recommendations and respond in due course.’