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Hate Crime

Hate crime is any criminal offence committed against a person or property that is motivated by hostility towards someone based on their disability, race, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation:

  • race, colour, ethnic origin, nationality or national origins
  • religion
  • gender or gender identity
  • sexual orientation
  • disability
  • age

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DPP says prosecuting disability hate crime is "the next frontier" for the Criminal Justice System

02/03/2011

Prosecutors are 'still in the foothills' when it comes to prosecuting disability hate crime, the DPP Keir Starmer QC said today (Wednesday ) in a speech to Sussex Law School's 'Issues in Criminal Justice’ series at the University of Sussex.

Mr Starmer warned that thousands of cases go unreported each year, and crimes such as name calling, bullying and harassment of disabled people are not fully understood by the general public and are so widespread they are considered routine.

Calling for a change in society's attitude towards these types of offences, he says: "The idea of people being targeted as a victim of crime because of their disability is still relatively new. It is not fully understood by the general public and, more surprisingly perhaps, is not always recognised by the victims of such behaviour or by those with responsibility for dealing with it.

"Many disabled people do not appreciate that constant name calling, mimicking and bullying which often escalates to more serious forms of harassment and violence are criminal activities. That may be because such behaviour is so widespread as to be considered routine.

"Unless we as a society recognise and confront this issue there is little prospect of more cases coming into the system and we will have missed a valuable opportunity to tackle this important area."

Mr Starmer said that although a lot of good work has been done, and continues to be done, prosecutors also need to better recognise the needs of victims and witnesses with disabilities.

"Evidence from some voluntary sector organisations and [a high court ruling two years ago] suggest that prosecutors may be too ready to assume in some cases that victims and witnesses with disabilities are not reliable enough for a case to succeed or that, even if reliable, that they would not be able to give evidence in a way that would be accepted by a court."

Mr Starmer continues: "Having recognised that victims and witnesses have rights and interests as well as duties we need to ensure that we are listening carefully to what they have to say.

"To that end, we continue our work with colleagues in the criminal justice system and the voluntary and community sectors at national and local levels to develop best practice, and we will regularly review our policies in this area to ensure that we offer the best possible service to the disabled community. We should not underestimate the task ahead, and, as I have already said it is for society, too, to confront this issue.

"But we would all do well to recognise that, to date, victims and witnesses with disabilities have not been well served by the criminal justice system."

In October 2010, the CPS launched, in partnership with Mind, a tool kit for prosecutors to help them understand how and when mental distress affects a victim's evidence, leading to improving outcomes for victims with mental health problems.

Disabled organisations have provided help to the CPS in shaping guidance and policies in place to ensure that prosecutors deliver an effective and consistent approach across England and Wales.

 Ends

Notes to Editors

  1. You can read the DPP's speech in full here.
  2. For media enquiries call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906; Out of Hours Pager 07699 781 926
  3. The DPP has set out what the public can expect from the CPS in the Core Quality Standards document published in March 2010.
  4. The CPS consists of 42 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). These are organised into 12 Groups, plus CPS London, each overseen by Group Chair, a senior CCP. In addition there are four specialised national divisions: Central Fraud Group, Counter-Terrorism, Organised Crime and Special Crime. A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales.
  5. The CPS employs around 8,316 people and prosecuted 982,731 cases with a conviction rate of 86.8% in the magistrates' courts and 80.7% in the Crown Court in 2009-20010. Further information can be found on the CPS website
  6. The CPS, together with ACPO and media representatives, has developed a Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media. This sets out the type of prosecution material that will normally be released, or considered for release, together with the factors we will take into account when considering requests. Read the Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media