There has been little progress in improving the response of the police, probation and Crown Prosecution services to disability hate crime.
That is the core finding of a recent (21 May 2015) joint inspection report.
The report, officially titled “Joint review disability hate crime follow-up”, was designed to see how these three key agencies (although of course probation is now split into the National Probation Service and 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies) had responded to a critical joint inspection in March 2013. That earlier report set out seven recommendations which is the focus of this review.
Unfortunately, the review makes for very depressing reading.
- Although the police issued a range of guidance and there were a number of local awareness raising events, neither the police, CPS, nor probation have succeeded in raising the awareness of disability hate crime.
- This is reflected in the continuing low level of disability hate crimes reported to the police. There were only 1,985 in 2013/14 whereas the Crime Survey for England and Wales estimated a figure of 62,000 for the same year.
- A lack of training and other concerted efforts meant that the inspectors found very little improvement in practice.
- Only 20% of disability hate crimes were accurately identified by the police when they pass cases over to the CPS (although this represents a significant increase from the 7% found in 2013)
- 71% of CPS files examined by the inspectors were correctly identified as disability hate crimes (compared to 69% in 2013)
- Scrutiny of probation pre-sentence reports found there was little or no evidence that disability hate crime was receiving a higher priority.
The way forward
Although this review comes with a very critical conclusion that “there has been insufficient progress made against the recommendations”, the review did identify some good practice which at least indicates a possible way forward. Three examples are cited:
- The establishment of third-party reporting centres – allowing victims to report hate crimes in locations which they already frequent, rather than having to go to a police station – is a promising development.
- Lancashire police had developed a bespoke five and half hour training package on hate crime which had been delivered to all front-line staff as part of the centrally coordinated awareness campaign.
- In the North East CPS area, the hate crime coordinator undertook a monthly audit of cases flagged as disability hate crimes to improve practice.
It is very disappointing to report that hate crimes against one of society’s most vulnerable groups is still tackled so poorly.