Context and characteristics of crimes against disabled people

Our own data, as well as broader studies by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and other research, suggest that crimes against disabled people have diverse, yet identifiable characteristics. More than one of the characteristics set out below may be involved in criminal offending against disabled people:  

  • The victim is groomed and befriended and subjected to financial or sexual exploitation including: making the victim commit minor criminal offences such as shoplifting; using or selling the victim's medication; taking over the victim's accommodation to commit further offences such as taking/selling drugs, handling stolen goods, encouraging under-age drinking and sexual behavior.
  • Criminal abuse or neglect of a disabled person where there is an existing relationship and an expectation of trust: for example, where the perpetrator is a paid carer, family member, friend, support worker or volunteer. This includes: domestic violence; taking advantage of  a disabled person who is either perceived or known to lack capacity in relation to certain decisions; and criminal abuse or neglect of a disabled person living either temporarily or permanently in regulated or un-regulated care settings.
  • Physical assaults involving multiple perpetrators condoning and encouraging the main offender(s) - often filming on their mobile phones and sending pictures to friends/social networking sites such as YouTube or Flickr. False accusations of the victim being a paedophile or "grass"; sustained attacks or excessive violence; cruel, humiliating or degrading treatment, such as urinating on the victim or targeting them in a way that is related to the nature of the disability: for example, blindfolding someone who is profoundly deaf or destroying mobility aids.
  • Harassment via social media or in person, including false accusations of committing benefit fraud and making anonymous reports to the authorities.
  • Repeatedly targeting people’s homes, such as putting materials and/or threatening communications through letter boxes, criminal damage to adapted cars, and other property such as plants and front gardens. 
  • Disabled people being deliberately goaded and provoked into reacting and then finding that they are arrested as the offenders. 
  • Crimes committed in circumstances of anti-social behaviour or similar ‘low-level’ offending, which may not have previously reached the attention of the CPS. 
  • Targeting disabled people’s friends or family members, which may escalate  to regular targeting of the same person or family. 
  • Crimes against disabled people where the disability was not known to the offender (or played no part in their decision to commit the offence) but which have a significant impact on the victim in a way that is connected to their disability. For example, the tyres of random cars are slashed, however one car has specific adaptations and the disabled owner is left with no transport as a result.

Further reading