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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

Find out more about how we prosecute hate crime

Society must do better on disability hate crime says DPP

06/10/2008

Too many disabled people are living in fear because the criminal justice system is letting them down, the Director of Public Prosecutions has said.

Sir Ken Macdonald QC urged police and prosecutors to make sure that courts are given all the facts so that sentences can reflect the seriousness of the crime.

"Disability hate crime is very widespread. At the lower end of the scale there is a vast amount not being picked up. The more serious offences are not always being prosecuted as they should be," said Sir Ken. "This is a scar on the conscience of criminal justice. All institutions involved in criminal justice, including my own, share the responsibility."

Sir Ken said the biggest barrier to effective prosecution was that disabled people were perceived as "easy targets" rather than as targets of hostility. Prosecutors were not always making the best use of legislation provided by Parliament which enables courts to punish offenders more severely.

"A mistaken focus on vulnerability risks enhancing an already negative image of disabled people as inherently weak, easy targets and dependent," said Sir Ken. "This approach is wrong. It means that the opportunity to condemn the prejudice and hostility of the offender is missed.

"I want to make it very clear that prosecutors within the CPS, and all counsel instructed by us, must at all costs avoid this approach. Too often it's a cop out.

"Where there is evidence of hostility, police and prosecutors must ensure that it is put before the court. It is our duty to give effect to the law, which supports the struggle for disabled people to live as full and valued members of society. These offences represent a crude assault on their human rights."

Sir Ken gave examples of hostility towards disabled people cited in Mencap and MIND reports, including stones, yogurt and bad eggs being thrown at windows, people being told they should have been "put down at birth", items being stuffed through letter boxes and a campaigner for the rights of people with learning disabilites who will not leave his house in the evening.

"Some exceptionally grave cases have showed disabled people treated like animals. People have been subjected to sustained, violent and viciously degrading treatment.

"When police and prosecutors are presented with cases like these they must explore the facts with the question of disability hate crime firmly in their minds. They must look for evidence and build cases."

Sir Ken said it was not necessary for hostility to be expressed in clear language. Each apparently minor incident of name calling and harassment on the street may seem relatively unimportant, but, taken together, a pattern of hostility could be traced. Evidence of a history of targeting diasbled people, repeat victimisation, evidence from other witnesses of a perpetrator's prejudicial attitudes could all support a disability hate crime prosecution.

The CPS will continue to work with disability groups and will take the following action to improve its handling of disability hate crime cases:

  • Further guidance to prosecutors on what constitutes disability hate crime and how it should be dealt with;
  • Review its handing of disability hate crime;
  • Lead hate crime prosecutors from all CPS areas to work together to enhance awareness and build competence in handling disability hate crime;
  • Continued assessment of performance on handling these cases.
  1. S. 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 provides for an increase in sentences for aggravation related to disability or sexual orientation. In relation to disability, it says that if, at the time of committing the offence, or immediately before or afterwards, the offender demonstrated hostility towards the victim based on a disability (or presumed disability) of the victim, or that the offence is motivated (wholly or partly) by hostility towards disabled people or a particular disability, then the court must treat that as an aggravating factor, and must say so in open court.
  2. Sir Ken's speech is published on our website.

    Prosecuting disability hate crime - Sir Ken Macdonald, QC, Director of Public Prosecutions

    The event was jointly hosted by the Bar Council and the Equality and Diversity Forum.

  3. Our policy statement, explaining the way that we deal with cases of disability hate crime, along with guidance detailing some of the key areas, are available on our website.

    Disability hate crime - Prosecution Policy and Guidance

  4. Media enquiries to CPS Press Office on 020 7796 8079.
  5. The Crown Prosecution Service is the independent authority responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales. It is responsible for:
    • Advising the police and reviewing the evidence on cases for possible prosecution
    • Deciding the charge where the decision is to prosecute
    • Preparing cases for court
    • Presenting cases at court

    The CPS consists of 42 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales. The CPS employs around 8,400 people and prosecuted 1,091,250 cases with an overall conviction rate of 85.1% in 2007-2008.

    More about the CPS

    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.

    Publicity and the Criminal Justice System protocol