Criminal justice system still failing on disability hate crime

THE CRIMINAL justice system once again failed to take the necessary action to address its failings in dealing with disability hate crime, according to a new report.

Two years ago HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and HM Inspectorate of Probation concluded in a joint report that disability hate crime was “the hate crime that has been left behind”.

That report, Living in a Different World , called for attitudes to change, and said the criminal justice system had let down victims, pointing out how failings across the criminal justice system had helped lead to some of the most notorious disability hate crimes of recent years, including the deaths of Francecca and Fiona Pilkington , David Askew and Michael Gilbert .

Now, a follow-up report by the three inspectorates accuses the police, probation service and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) of failing to implement their recommendations.

Disability News Service (DNS) has been reporting on the criminal justice system’s failings in dealing with disability hate crime since 2009, while the police, prosecutors and probation service — and other agencies, including the courts — have repeatedly been urged to improve in a series of reports.

In 2008, Disability Now magazine, Scope and the UK Disabled People’s Council published the ground-breaking report Getting Away with Murder.

It was followed in September 2011 by the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) report, In Plain Sight, which concluded that hundreds of thousands of disabled people were being subjected to disability- related harassment every year, but that a “culture of disbelief” was preventing authorities from addressing the problem.

And two years later, in 2013, came Living in a Different World from the three inspectorates, which found that the criminal justice system was still failing disabled people.

Only two months ago, the continuing problems within the system were illustrated when DNS revealed how three thugs who carried out vicious attacks on young disabled men had avoided being sentenced for disability hate crime for the second time.

This week’s report from the three inspectorates shows that much of the criminal justice system “although there are patches of good practice” is still failing disabled people on hate crime.

It says there has been “a failure to universally embed good working practices relating to disability hate crime by the police, CPS and probation service providers”, while police, CPS and probation service leaders had failed to ensure the issue received “additional focus and attention”.

And it reveals that police are still only correctly identifying 20 per cent of disability hate crimes in the files they pass to the CPS, although this is an improvement on just seven per cent in 2013. There is, the report says, a “continuing lack of understanding of disability hate crime issues by the police”.

Meanwhile David Cameron’s new government has downgraded the importance of the role of the minister for disabled people, just days after winning the general election.

The ministerial post had previously been a junior ministerial role until the October 2013 appointment of Mike Penning, who became a minister of state. At the time, Penning said: “Making this a senior ministerial post shows the government’s commitment to disabled people and ensuring everyone can get on in life.”

His successor as minister for disabled people, Mark Harper, was also a minister of state. But following last week’s announcements by Prime Minister David Cameron of his new government, it has emerged that the new minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson, will be merely a junior minister, or under-secretary.