Disability Hate Crime: "We must improve" says Hertfordshire Crown Prosecution Service Chief Crown Prosecutor

27/10/2009

At a conference on November 2, the CPS and Police are joining forces with organisations providing services to Disabled people. The conference aims to raise awareness of disability hate crime.

At a conference on November 2, the CPS and Police are joining forces with organisations providing services to Disabled people.  The conference aims to raise awareness of disability hate crime.

Hertfordshire CPS Chief Crown Prosecutor David Robinson, who will be speaking at the event said, "We know that there are many people living with abuse and harassment on a daily basis because of their disability.  This was shown most recently in the tragic Fiona Pilkington case.  Reports are not made to the police because people dont know that bullying behaviour is almost always a criminal offence, or they are not confident that their problems will be taken seriously.  That is totally unacceptable and we must improve at supporting the specific needs of disabled victims and witnesses who are entitled to receive justice like anyone else. 

"We have to start right at the beginning and publicly define what disability hate crime is if we are to encourage more victims to come forward."

The conference will publicise CPS and police policies on reporting and prosecuting disability hate crime and supporting vulnerable victims and witnesses at court.  Amongst the speakers at the conference will be Disabled people from Hertfordshire, who will share their experiences of hate crime.

Inspector Ian Tycer, Hertfordshire Constabulary's hate crime champion said: "Any crime, including abuse and harassment, motivated by hostility towards someone with a disability is actually a disability hate crime.  Targeting someone because of a disability makes the impact on the victim much worse. We take such crimes extremely seriously and want to ensure that any victim of disability hate crime receives the highest standard of care and investigation. Identifying a crime as a disability hate crime can result in a greater penalty at court.

"I am keen to increase community confidence and am taking this opportunity to launch the Home Office sponsored True Vision Disability Hate Crime self-reporting forms. By distributing these forms across the county I hope to encourage more people to come forward and tell us of their experiences."

The self reporting hate crime forms can be found on the Constabulary's website www.herts.police.uk under the 'Report a Crime' section.  The forms will be distributed to all partner agencies and service providers including local schools, councils, housing associations, community support groups, medical practices, hospitals, places of worship and sports clubs to enable the Constabulary to provide a better service to all victims of hate crime.

Mr S, a 54-year-old consultant on mental health issues living in Stevenage and a speaker at the conference added: "Sixteen years ago I was attacked myself because I was suffering from mental health issues and living in social service accommodation, which was known to the local community to be provided for people suffering from these problems.  I ended up being arrested rather than protected by the criminal justice system.  Its encouraging to see the CPS and police proactively working together with organisations who support people with disabilities, and that they are recognising the vast amount of work that needs to be done to empower victims of disability hate crime to take action."   

Conference speaker, David Chrimes is a local barrister, employed by the CPS who is himself disabled.  He said: "The CPS wants to send out a strong message today to those suffering from abuse: we are ready and primed to prosecute cases of disability hate crime.  We have specially trained staff who can support you through the court process and make special arrangements for you to give evidence. 

"And to those who torment and abuse vulnerable people, we want you to be aware that we will take these cases seriously and sentences will be tougher." 
 
The conference is the start of a programme of work the CPS will undertake to learn from people living with disabilities about their experiences of hate crime.  The ultimate aim is to improve the support and service provided and to see more successful prosecutions of disability hate crime.