Online hate crimes against disability increase by more than 50% in one year, figures show
Hate-motivated abuse against people with disabilities online has increased by more than 50% in the past year, according to police figures obtained by a charity.
There were 9,252 hate crimes against people with disabilities reported to police in England and Wales in 2020/21 – up slightly from the previous year, according to disability charities Leonard Cheshire and United Response.
That’s the equivalent of 25 infractions a day, but charities warn the problem is likely to be much more serious due to underreporting.
Of these, 4,101 (44%) were classified as violent – involving assault or possession of weapons – up 4.4% from the previous 12 months.
And 981 hate disability crimes were reported online, up 51.6% from 2019-2020.
Abi, from Yorkshire, had 50,000 followers on a social media platform when she was targeted by trolls.
The abuse was motivated by her autism and membership in the LGBTQ + community, she said.
She said: âThey revealed my real name and where I lived.
âThe social media platform just told me to make my account private, but took no action to identify the trolls or remove their hateful content.
“The police also just told me to unlink or deactivate my social profiles.”
The number of repeat offenders also increased by 88.5% over the same period.
Leonard Cheshire said it was “perhaps little wonder” that repeat offender rates have increased, given that only 104 reported crimes were referred to the Crown Prosecution Service or resulted in a charge in 2020-2021.
Leonard Cheshire and United Response said: âMany people with disabilities we spoke to said they would not report their hate crimes to police, so our findings are likely to barely scratch the surface of the true magnitude of these horrible incidents.
âThe stories we have heard suggest that many police officers do not have a good understanding of disability.
âWe are therefore asking for a liaison officer specializing in disability in each police force. “
They added: âWe have also heard about the terrible and long-term impact that these crimes can have on individuals; leaving them isolated and afraid to leave their home. It is clear that there must be specific disability support for victims.
They said the government’s promised disability awareness campaign should be an “opportunity to educate everyone, including young people and schoolchildren, about hate crimes related to disability.”
A spokesperson for the Home Office said: âAll forms of hate crimes are totally unacceptable.
âThe government takes this issue very seriously, which is why we released the Hate Crime Action Plan which has improved the police response to all forms of hate crime.
“We are also working with people with disabilities and other disability stakeholders to develop a new strategy that will be released in the fall of 2021.”
The chairman of the National Council of Police Chiefs, Martin Hewitt, told the Palestinian Authority news agency that he had not seen the numbers, but that any significant increase in the number of people victimized due to ‘a disability is “of course something that we have to look at and deal with very, very seriously”.
He added: âI would certainly assure anyone that any hate crime is taken very seriously by the police and we will seek to do everything possible to minimize this victimization. “