DPAC are delighted to have been given the authorisation to post 2 very important pieces of work about hate crime produced by Anne Novis who was awarded an MBE for her work in this area. Anne continues to collect information and campaign vigorously against hate crime through the Disability Hate Crime Network.
Action Now Report
On Disability Related Hostility by Anne Novis
Anne Novis is a disability activist, Independent Adviser to the ‘Metropolitan Police Service’ and ‘British Transport Police’, Advisor to the ‘Metropolitan Police Authority Hate Crime Board’ and Advisor on the ‘Ministry of Justice Hate Crime Advisory Group’. Co- Chair of the MPS Disability Independent Advisory Group for six years and recently received a commendation from the MPS for all her ‘relevant and timely advice’.
Anne is also a member and facilitator of the ‘Disability Hate Crime Network’ face book site
Anne has authored, and contributed to, several recent key reports on disability hate crime.
‘Getting away with Murder disabled people’s experience of hate crime in the UK’ authored by Katherine Quarmby, co produced by UKDPC and Scope,
The ‘Snap Shot Report’ on disability targeted hostility during a three month period in 2010,
‘The Bigger Picture Report’ which details 68 killings and over 500 disability targeted incidents and crimes against disabled people found in the media and online in the last three years.
This new report, and the previous two, has been produced as evidence for the EHRC inquiry into disability related harassment.
In this report I offer for consideration my personal views and actions I would like to see initiated about disability hate crime or targeted hostility towards disabled people. Also more detailed information about the evidence I have gathered.
I have for many years saved evidence about hostility towards disabled people from media articles, blogs, and message boards and from individuals shared experiences.
All recent evidence I have collected has been submitted to the EHRC inquiry. This includes details of 68 murders and over 500 other attacks/incidents against disabled people over the last three years. Obviously this is the very small tip of a very large iceberg!
There remains much I personally would like to see captured in this EHRC inquiry, and for public services to consider, as well as ideas which come from years of experience campaigning on this issue and advising the police.
I ask that a pan-impairment approach is undertaken, consistent with the Social Model of Disability, which recognises all work on this issue needs to be undertaken for all disabled people not just one group in isolation of others.
This leads to injustice and unfair approaches disregarding the joint experience of disabled people.
Taking a stance, based on very limited research, that one group or the other of disabled people experiences more hostility, then others, is not appropriate. This is what we call a Medical Model approach, one based on what our medical conditions, or impairments are, rather then what the issue is really about. This also leads to a focus of responses being based on the victim changing the way they live rather then the perpetrator being profiled and reasons why we are attacked.
Whilst recognising specific responses at local level may be needed to ensure access for disabled people this should not be divisive or separate us from one another. Segregation is an archaic response one disabled people have fought against for many years. Work with all disabled people and then diverse responses can be formed.
Data from media articles gives us only a glimpse into the reality of disabled people’s experiences yet it is part of the bigger picture which can be added to other evidence. Many police services and individuals working inUKregions as equality workers or hate crime officers, and DPOs, have appreciated accessing the media articles for their region.
Strategic responses should be integrated and ensure equality of service provision and justice. Funding must be prioritised to enable disabled peoples own organisations to be developed and enabled to work locally on this issue. This does not mean just funding local service provision such as advocacy, it means enabling a national DPO, like UKDPC, to produce and disseminate training and materials that would empower our local DPOs to be effectively engaged in multi-agency partnerships, hate crime boards, engage with local police and become Third Party reporting sites as well as do research.
Just because not all disabled people understand or work on this issue does not mean this can be used as an excuse to exclude us. Enable the experts in our own organisations to share their knowledge across theUK.
Response to evidence gathered
Over the last three years over 70 disabled people have been killed yet we wait to see an appropriate response to such targeted crime. On the main news channels only a handful of these murders/killings/deaths have been broadcast so few realise the bigger picture.
Some disabled people were killed by relatives, others by so called friends, some as a result of physical assault that led to death, young people committing arson attacks on mobility equipment or throwing fireworks into a house led to deaths and some were deliberately planned tortures and murders. One man said he killed his wife due to lack of care support, he then killed himself.
Action needed about murders/killings
- Recognise that intervention is required urgently to ensure no one feels they have no choice but to kill a disabled person just because they cannot cope with caring for them.
- There is an urgent need for risk assessments and Equality Impact Assessment’s to be undertaken on the impending cuts to Social Care funding and the wider consequences this will have.
- All must challenge the justice system not to allow ’mercy killings’ as a justification for murder.
- Recording and monitoring of all crimes against disabled people must be initiated promptly in recognition of the escalating attacks and murders against us.
- Cases that clearly demonstrate an attack, or murder, that is aggravated by the victim being a disabled person must be recognised and used in all judicial process.
- Legislation around Hate Crime needs to be made equal for all, giving disabled people the same protection in law as others who experience attacks due to identity.
- This means including ‘disability’ in Incitement legislation as well as recognising Disability Hate Crime as a crime in and of itself rather then just an aggravating factor.
- The police need to set targets around disability hate crime. Most other forms of hate crime have performance targets, and are aimed at the number of perpetrators who are arrested and brought to justice (charged or cautioned), which are called ‘Sanction Detection Rates’. Whilst it is generally accepted that this is not always the best indicator of performance, a performance measure is urgently required to be introduced so the profile of disability hate crime is increased, and the police can start focusing on improving low reporting rates and improve the quality of investigations and outcomes.
Some disabled people have been targeted by families, or groups of people, who subject the person to torture over a prolonged period of time. Humiliation, sexual abuse, starvation, repeated beatings, burns, shaving off all hair, abuse with household objects and parts of their body cut off or stabbed. Another aspect is the filming of the humiliation and abuse, and then these videos are shared for ‘fun’ and mockery of the disabled person. Several of the cases found have been perpetuated by young people under 18 who therefore receive very low sentences of two to four years for such serious crimes.
- Enforcement of Article 15(2) of the UN Convention on the rights of disabled people (UNCRPD), which states explicitly that:
‘States Parties shall take all effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent persons with disabilities, on an equal basis with others, from being subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.’
- Punishment of such crimes with the full recourse of the law for those young people who fully understand the consequences of such crimes.
- Review of such cases by the justice system, and advisement on changes needed to the law so that justice can be implemented accordingly.
- Recognition that such persistent attacks are aggravated due to the impairments of the victim and as such all sentences should be enhanced.
Rape and sexual abuse
Rape and sexual abuse can affect any disabled person. Many cases seem to be by carers/professionals working in the victim’s home or care environment but such assaults have also randomly occurred on the streets. Some disabled people have been targeted in accessible toilets, on public transport or in vehicles that transport disabled people to day centres or residential care.
Some victims have been raped by several people as well as being violently attacked in other ways. Disabled men and women with a range of impairments have experienced rape and sexual assaults.
When disabled people have reported rape they have experienced social barriers such as lack of accessible examination/support centres, communication difficulties. Further still, often a victim of such abuse is not believed or respected as a credible witness thereby denying the victim redress in law.
This is a common experience for disabled people. Out of over 70 murders in the last three years 12 were by relatives. Disabled men also get attacked by partners, or by a relative, yet this is an issue many ignore. Refuges and support has mainly been set up for women.
Furthermore, adult sons and daughters attack disabled parents sometimes due to the frustrations of caring responsibilities, other times due to wanting money or an inheritance.
It has not been possible to find many reports of domestic violence against disabled people in the media, except the murders, due to the nature of this crime and also because half as many women are sharing their experiences with the media. Due to the stigma around domestic violence men also find it difficult to reveal they have been a victim of such abuse.
In one case a physically disabled man was stabbed by his wife, who is also his carer, she was let off a custodial sentence and given a work order of 150 hours. Such light punishment infers disabled peoples lives are not as valuable as others.
However, some good research has been processed, around disabled people and domestic violence; this includes the Women’s Aid report –
- Rape reporting/examination centres need to ensure accessibility as well as training for staff on Disability Equality.
- Non-compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and Duties is an issue that must be addressed so all victims of rape can access all services and support available.
- Refuges for victims of domestic violence need to ensure accessibility for a wide range of disabled people.
- Refuges and support for victims of domestic violence also need to address the issues of disabled men being victims and ensure their services are appropriate for them.
- Research into the prevalence of domestic violence against disabled men is also recommended.
- Appropriate levels of support are required for carers of disabled people and urgent attention given to those carers who state they are not coping.
- No person should be placed in a situation where they feel their only option is to kill a disabled child, of any age, or relative due to lack of social support.
- Implementation of Article 16(3) of the UNCRPD that states: ‘In order to prevent the occurrence of all forms of exploitation, violence and abuse, States Parties shall ensure that all facilities and programmes designed to serve persons with disabilities are effectively monitored by independent authorities.’ And that;
- Article 16(5): ‘Parties shall put in place effective legislation and policies, including women – and child – focused legislation and policies, to ensure that instances of exploitation, violence and abuse against persons with disabilities are identified, investigated and, where appropriate, prosecuted.’
Carer abuse takes many forms: verbal harassment, theft, rape and sexual abuse, physical violence and murder. Many disabled people have paid carers in their homes in a position of trust; this gives opportunities for theft or other forms of abuse. Nurses and care workers have also abused their position of trust, verbally abusing, mocking, harassing and physically assaulting disabled people in their care.
Disabled people have been burnt with cigarettes or boiling bath water, pictures taken of them naked and distributed around the home, roughly manhandled, slapped and beaten.
In July 2010 an inquiry has revealed 44 claims of abuse, in a care home for people with learning difficulties. The police are now investigating these claims which include withholding of food and drink, being locked in cupboards and taken to well known sexual abuse ‘hot spots’ (according to media statements) as well as clients being left on their bus whilst carers went shopping for themselves.
999 Controllers recorded one incident of ambulance men deciding a physically disabled man’s life was not worth saving due to disability and mess in his home.
Couples with learning difficulties live in anxiety and fear of their children being taken from them due to an archaic policy that assesses the ability of the disabled person to be ‘good enough’ parent’s rather then supporting disabled parents in their responsibilities – as is done around individual disabled people with other impairments. Such actions are a violation of human rights and a form of targeted hostility from public services that needs to be addressed urgently.
There are not many recorded reports of these abuses, possibly due to disabled people not able to speak out without assistance or worried that reporting such abuse may makes things worse for them. This atmosphere of fear, lack of transparency and often the policies themselves which were meant to provide protection can restrict reporting.
- There is much work progressed on safeguarding disabled people from some of these abuses but failures are common so more in depth work is required ensuring disabled people themselves are involved and advising on such policies.
- Training is required for disabled people who employ their own Personal Assistants around assessing and addressing safeguarding issues.
- Policies that violate disabled persons human rights must be urgently reviewed and changed.
- An independent process for disabled people in care, or using care resources like day centres, needs to be developed where they can communicate concerns or report abuse. This needs to be accessible and provide effective independent support to raise a complaint and see it through to the end.
- Fear of reprisal is an issue for victims when reporting an incident, although this should be addressed in any safeguarding action plan, many potential victims have no awareness of this policy. A positive campaign encouraging reporting in care settings to independent advocates, who would also share information on protection, for possible victims is recommended.
Disabled children are experiencing abuse, bullying, harassment and physical attacks in and outside schools.
From the evidence collected, disabled young people have been murdered, threatened, robbed, sexually abused in school and other care environments, raped, burnt, beaten up by gangs of older teenagers and adults, tortured and filmed for ‘fun’.
One boy who is a wheelchair user was slapped by burglars in his home, one boy alleges repeated sexual abuse by a social worker, one boy who uses crutches was attacked by a gang as he waited for a bus, one young girl stamped on and beaten, one disabled baby was verbally insulted in a shop by an assistant and one boy’s home was targeted for an arson attack.
Equipment which assist the disabled child has been targeted vandalised or stolen; such as a school sensory garden trashed three times, specialist sailing equipment damaged leading to closure of the sailing initiative for disabled children. In one area three adapted buses for disabled children were vandalised resulting in the children missing out on school lessons.
Many disabled people view ‘bullying’ incited by the victim’s impairment as a form of targeted hostility and hate crime that needs to be addressed.
Schools and teaching staff are often slow to take disablist bullying seriously.
Often, disabled children experience repeated attacks by the same groups of people.
The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) has evidence of one instance of a disabled child being repeatedly bullied yet when the parent asked for help the head teacher suggested the child should ‘just get used to being teased’. One article detailed a case where one deaf girl became a focus for repeated bullying, physical assault and threats to kill. The school refused to acknowledge there was a problem even when the disabled girl wanted to kill herself. The school stated it was ‘just kids being kids’.
Another case involves a young boy with multiple impairments who was excluded from school photographs. The head teacher suggested the boy have a section of the playground to separate him from other children. One play assistant described him as ‘a horrible boy’ in front of a playground of children. The parents felt he was just regarded as a ‘naughty child’, marginalised, harassed and excluded by their attitudes. The school eventually decided they could not meet the boy’s needs within the government’s policy of inclusion of disabled children in mainstream school.
Whilst not advocating punishing the young person doing the bullying I do expect the school to implement a robust anti bullying policy. The policy should recognise all similar attacks as situations that need to be dealt with by working with their community of staff and students and challenging the prejudice behind such attacks.
Bullying and hostility towards disabled children and young people also can occur in Special Schools which are often seen as ‘safe havens’. This assumption that such schools do not have such issues must be challenged and the reality addressed.
In the past I have provided counselling to disabled children in aSpecialSchool. They shared fears and anxieties when they are ‘picked on’ by other children and sometimes those in authority. The lack of belief about what disabled people experience is a common factor for all ages.
Many young disabled people are also being targeted on public streets by gangs and individuals who think it is ‘fun’ to harass, demean, and physically hurt them. Verbal harassment often takes place first, then obstruction of the persons movements, then physical assault.
There is also evidence of increasing attacks on disabled children in some church environments. The children are deemed as ‘possessed by evil spirits’ or ‘witches’ and therefore to be punished and exorcised. One child was found with the burn mark of an iron on her back, others punched and beaten for behavioural difficulties.
- Training is required in schools that facilitate discussion, and awareness, about disability equality for staff and children. This could be facilitated by disabled young people themselves and via active participative methods with support from disabled adults.
- There should be a mechanism to monitor effectiveness of Education providers anti bullying policy – through OFSTED or other bodies.
- A DVD and Toolkit developed for use in schools, by disabled people, to initiate and raise awareness of disability targeted hostility would be very useful.
- Abuse of disabled children is not acceptable in any environment or institution yet the reality is their voice is barely heard. Whilst there are child specific help lines for abuse, the nature of a child’s impairment can add a barrier that is often not overcome by the service provider. Such service providers should have as a requirement of funding their accessibility assessed. This is a legal duty under the DDA.
- All religious establishments and places of worship in theUK, regardless of cultural differences, must abide by the laws of this land and the human rights of the individual child. Information and awareness-raising in such institutions is urgently required to address this growing concern. We also need to see appropriate legal measures taken against those who perpetuate such abuse of disabled children.
- Accessible reporting sites could be set up in schools, youth centres and other places where young people go or gather. These need to ensure they are available to the child, or young disabled person, in a safe environment which encourages them to share their experiences as well as being supported.
- Some Peer Support schemes have been set up in schools which could be widened in remit for disabled children and young people
- The Safe Haven scheme for people with learning difficulties could also be assessed for its suitability for disabled children and young people.
- A Disability History Month for schools would enable a focus to be placed on celebrating disabled peoples lives and would begin to breakdown the unhelpful stereotyping that drives bullying and harassment of disabled children and young people.
Incidents in disabled people’s homes
Some assaults and robberies have occurred in the disabled persons home, the level of physical attack being extreme when considering the lack of physical ability of some disabled people to defend themselves.
A few burglars have seriously attacked a disabled victim whilst in bed, unable to move without assistance.
Some incidents involve neighbour disputes becoming more and more hostile at times leading to murder.
- Targeted hostility by neighbours is a feature of many attacks and murders. Landlords and social housing providers need to ensure they are addressing this issue as is their duty under the DDA re eliminating harassment against disabled people.
- Advocacy services specific to this issue are required and recommended in local disabled peoples organisations (DPOs) wherever possible.
- Understanding from all involved that low level irritations, or targeted hostility, can lead to violent crimes against disabled people in their homes or neighbourhood is essential. Training could be provided by a local DPO or Disability Consultant to Multi Agency Safeguarding Panels and Hate Crime Boards at local levels.
- Housing Mediation Centres would be well placed to try and resolve such low level irritations but they must be staffed by well trained people who understand the Social Model of Disability. As these are voluntary organisations the local authorities who support them could ensure this as a condition of funding.
- Safer Neighbourhood Policing teams need to ensure they are in contact with disabled people in their areas and addressing security and safety issues as well as what may be called anti-social behaviour.
- Schemes that ensure disabled people are accessing as much security as possible for their homes are recommended.
Assault and robbery
The evidence I submitted only focussed on robberies that included significant hostility. In many cases the theft seems to be a minor outcome of a targeted physical attack rather then the reason a disabled person is targeted. Often items stolen are found damaged or thrown away.
Where there has been actual theft of money or valuables the levels of the assaults are often far more extreme then required to steal such goods. Crutches, hearing aids, dark glasses, and other aids are being stolen and damaged.
- Police need to ensure they are recognising the nature of such assaults and robberies and recording them as hate incidents if the crime has obviously taken place due to a person being disabled or if the victim perceives, or feels, they were attacked for this reason.
- Many such crimes are not being recorded or investigated appropriately and doing an injustice to the experience of the victim.
- Currently legislation will only recognise disability as an aggravating factor for a crime such as assault and robbery yet is often not used. Until we get better legislation disabled people are looking to see a much wider user of the protection we have in law. Therefore all police officers need training to recognise when a crime has been aggravated by the person’s impairment.
- Using the excuse that a person is ‘vulnerable’ and that is why they are attacked is not acceptable anymore. We all are vulnerable when someone wants to attack or target us for crime. Better recording and recognition of such crimes is essential
Befriending/Grooming of disabled people
Evidence I found shows that befriending, personal assistance and formal caring often can lead to targeted hostility. This has led to murders, vicious physical attacks, torture and persistent harassment and theft of the victim’s money. The nature of such ‘grooming’ and ‘befriending’ can take the form of a person forming a caring/friendship role, deliberately spending time with the disabled person socially, offering to assist with household chores, shopping etc. This then places them in the position of accessing bank accounts or welfare benefits. Others control the disabled person in such ways that they become dependent on the ‘friend’ leading to abuse, torture and at times murder.
- It is not possible to safeguard all disabled people to the degree required to prevent such abuse but educating and raising awareness about this type of crime would assist. It has been mainly disabled people with care and support needs who have been victims of such crimes so extra input for these disabled people by social services, specific user led organisations and disabled peoples organisations setting up awareness raising projects would be of value.
- Advocacy projects, run by and for disabled people, are essential. Anyone experiencing this, or other sorts of abuse, can then speak about their experiences in accessible ways.
- Peer support is another method which could give a safe place for disabled people to share concerns.
- Police visiting and becoming familiar with places disabled people go and increasing their presence and building relationships could encourage reporting.
This is an experience of many disabled people and is leading to some trying to protect themselves either with disability equipment, such as walking sticks, or as in one case a repeat victim buying a fake gun to try and prevent the repeated attacks he experienced. It has been a saddening experience to read that such victims have actually been charged with a crime by police who then ignore the perpetrators of the repeat attacks.
- The lack of understanding by police officers around disability hate crime is not acceptable. Whilst recognising that many have not had training on this specific issue, they have received equality and hate crime training. All this knowledge should be easily transferable regarding disability targeted hostility or hate crime. Yet the reality is there is a significant lack of understanding and also lack of recording or monitoring.
- National recording of disability hate crime is meant to start in April 2011. It has been disheartening to see this start date postponed yet again at a time when people are beginning to believe disabled people about what they experience. For us to have confidence in the police they must respond more urgently to such issues.
- IT Systems used by police need to ensure they can capture information about repeat victimisation.
Attacks on wheelchair and mobility scooter users
Over the last three years I have found over 90 wheelchair and mobility scooter users were physically assaulted, verbally abused, harassed and/or victims of assault and robbery. All of these happened on local high streets or near the wheelchair user’s home. It is common for wheelchair users to be tipped out of their chairs as part of the physical attacks. This has led to some victims being left stranded on a pathway unable to call or access assistance for some time adding to the distress of the victim. It is also a practice that leads to significant harm to the wheelchair user.
These attacks can happen even when the wheelchair user is with someone else so this is not just about the thinking these people are easy targets or ‘vulnerable’.
- Providers of such equipment need to be ensuring they raise awareness of the user around this type of hostility and making available added safety equipment such as audio alarms or direct link to police via a specific radio or mobile phone attachment. New technology offers many imaginative options which could be explored to enhance the safety of wheelchair and mobility scooter users.
- Local police need to raise awareness of wheelchair and mobility scooters users about what they can do to be safer or how to respond to such attacks.
- Some schemes have provided self defence classes for users of this equipment this could be explored in more depth by local DPOs.
- Equally we need to see the police taking firm action against such criminals, using the full recourse of the law, and recognising the ‘hate’ element.
Many disabled people have also been harassed and attacked on public transport. Sometimes this is due to disputes about the designated wheelchair space on buses with parents with baby buggies. Often this has led to the disabled person not getting on the bus due to the targeted abuse they experience. Some disabled people with learning difficulties can become a target that is followed onto public transport to ridicule, harass and/or attack.
The drivers of buses also sometimes enable such harassment by not reporting incidents, not supporting the wheelchair users right to a space on the bus, telling the disabled person, rather then those who are abusive, to get off the bus. Those disabled people who sit in a designated seat who are not obviously disabled have experienced harassment and assaults even when they have explained their conditions.
- CCTV use on public transport is essential and this resource should be widely advertised to try and prevent assaults and harassment of anyone.
- This includes monitoring how drivers respond to disabled people.
- Clear guidance is required and needs to be enforced about the designated spaces for disabled people on public transport.
- Education of other users of public transport about what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and penalty fines enforced for breaking such rules.
- More community police or wardens on public transport would also ease the concerns of disabled people but they must be trained so they are aware of what is disability hate crime.
These attacks have been focused on disability equipment and venues such as day centres and sheltered housing. Mobility scooters have been targeted many times over recent years, some push the scooter in front of the victims’ doorway which has led to deaths of two disabled people this year as well as people having to be rescued by fire fighters and becoming very ill due to smoke inhalation.
- Fire prevention community awareness needs to include specific guidance to users of wheelchairs and mobility scooters.
- Many incidents were able to take place due to equipment left outside a person’s home; it must be the duty of landlords and social housing providers to ensure appropriate space and storage for disabled people’s equipment.
- Sheltered housing providers need to ensure safe places for mobility scooters.
- Insurance for such equipment needs to also be promoted.
People with visual impairments and guide dogs
Evidence from Guide Dogs for the Blind has shown that those who are blind, or have visual impairments, have experienced many instances of guide dogs being attacked, white canes and dark glasses stolen and damaged. In the last year it has been common for guide dogs to be attacked by fighting breeds of dogs deliberately incited to attack by the owners. Some guide dogs have been killed or so seriously traumatised they cannot work anymore.
- Recent research has detailed increasing attacks on guide dogs so specific responses need to be explored with guide dog users as to how they could be safer and owners of attacking dogs brought to justice.
- The targeting of personal disability related equipment can be a form of hate crime and must be recorded as such by police.
Verbal harassment can range from derogatory name-calling, deliberate and hostile staring at the disabled person. Mothers have experienced babies being called nasty names, groups of young people sneering and taunting the victim and adults deliberately aggressively hostile stating that the victim should never have been born and should be killed. I have experienced this and its impact is ongoing.
Victims are told off for being a burden on the state, work shy, fraudsters, ridiculed for needing care and/or support. They have also been threatened with being reported to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) fraud hotline by complete strangers and many disabled people have actually been reported maliciously.
Their movements have been watched by neighbours for any indication of them not being a true disabled person. Some write to newspapers stating a disabled person needs too much care to be in the community.
Such constant abuse can become extremely frightening and leads to disabled people restricting their movements, going out and about, even to moving away due to fear of the hostility they experience.
- The impact of such harassment is significant for all people who experience hate crime yet often what disabled people experience is defined as anti- social behaviour. This is leading to a lack of understanding about the serious impact on disabled peoples lives of such incidents. It also gives the message that what disabled people experience is not the same as other targeted individuals who are victims due to their identity. Being a disabled person is an identity, one we cannot change, and must be understood.
- All public services need to ensure that they are not encouraging or perpetuating harassment against disabled people. If a fraud reporting line is misused then penalties and legal action must be the consequence. If this is not followed then the message is given its ok to falsely accuse a disabled person of fraud which is not acceptable.
- Political leaders and those who are in positions of public responsibility also need to ensure they are complying with equality legislation and ensuring dignity and respect for all human beings. Labelling disabled people in a derogatory way leads to others copying such behaviour and using the words our leaders use against disabled people.
- A scheme called Safe Havens has been initiated for people with learning difficulties. This is about various venues such as local shops, pubs, and community centres being designated as a Safe Haven for a disabled person who has been threatened, harassed or experiencing any form of hostility. The workers are prepared to have the victim come inside, have time out, speak to police if required. This is a scheme that could be encouraged and available for all disabled people so when they plan a journey they will know where such Safe Places are.
Stones or other forms of missiles like stones and snowballs have been deliberately thrown at disabled people even whilst sitting in their cars. Football fans have targeted missiles at physically disabled people in the stands and made fun of the persons walking or other difficulties trying to get out of the stadium. Rocks have also been thrown through windows and at adapted vehicles.
- All those involved in crowd control need awareness training about disabled people being targeted and actions taken to prevent this as much as possible.
- As we prepare for the Olympics in 2012 this issue needs to be explored with disabled people’s organisations.
As the use of the internet has expanded so has the methods used to harass disabled people. I found evidence of people inciting others to attack and even kill disabled people. One site targeted Deaf people specifically, and other disabled people, the site owner bragged about attacks on Deaf people and how he would kill them if he could, people responding to the Face book site responded with encouragement although there was also outrage expressed another targeted people withDowns’s syndrome. Some have been deliberately set up to con disabled people out of thousands of pounds.
One MP’s website had photos of disabled people and named them as different members of other parties ministers, ridiculing those targeted as having certain types of impairments. The MP disclaimed all connection with the material yet allowed it to stay on the website for many weeks.
Even the governments own website on the ‘Spending Challenge’ allowed people to post ideas about sterilising those on benefits, using disabled people as bomb disposal workers, enslaving disabled people and putting us in a workhouse type environment.
The responses expressed to these ideas evidenced the high level of hostility towards disabled people in theUKwhich sadly the recent government’s plans and comments re welfare reform have encouraged. No appropriate moderation was engaged even though many people complained no action was taken for some time. Such lack of appropriate management of websites is inciting hatred towards disabled people.
- Legislation and controls of internet uses and abuses are in place but are very difficult to police. It would make sense for current and future Equality legislations to cover online discrimination and harassment.
- No individual should be able to incite hatred against disabled people via such methods, but we have no recognition of this in current legislation around incitement to commit hate crime as disabled people are not included. This must change urgently so we have equality of protection in law.
- Our government ministers must take responsibility for the language they use, and statements they make, about disabled people on websites, Face book, Twitter etc. This also means ensuring that government owned sites are responsibly moderated and maintained.
- The EHRC also has a responsibility to address complaints by disabled people to them about such abuse and its consequences.
No known work has been progressed to profile the attackers of disabled people. From media reports only a little information can be gathered about the attackers and some of this may be distorted or incorrect.
The majority of attacks in the media have occurred in public or the disabled person’s home or care environment. Past research has stated most attacks on disabled people are by known neighbours or friends of the victim. Whilst this is also evidenced in the media articles re murders, carer abuse, arson attacks, rape and sexual abuse it is not evidenced around all the murders or majority of assaults, robberies, harassment, and online attacks.
Many incidents have been by groups of young people, girls and boys of three or more. But the majority have been by one person who decides either randomly, or specifically, to target a disabled person. Such attacks have been unprovoked in nature which is evidence enough that these are cases of hate crime and should be dealt with as such by police.
- Professional perpetrator profiling is urgently required around the murders and violent attacks of disabled people. This could be facilitated by the police or CPS who have engaged professionals to undertake such work around domestic violence, for instance.
- A campaign to counteract the stereotypes and miss-beliefs about disabled people would challenge such perceptions. But this must originate from specialist disabled people/organisations with an understanding of the Social Model of Disability.
- Some past campaigns originating from non disabled people with the best of intentions have actually perpetuated and encouraged stereotyping and given more ways for people to abuse.
- Our children need to be taught to embrace difference from a very early age, integrating disabled children where possible into mainstream schools is very important as is the teaching they receive about different people’s identity.
- Training for all political leaders is urgently required so they understand the impact of their words when they target disabled people for service cuts and welfare reforms. Ignorance is no excuse for inciting hostility towards one sector of society.
- Reforms that target specifically disabled people, or impact on them in any way, must ensure the voice of disabled people themselves is heard in the formation of such reforms and throughout there implementation to asses and address the impact on disabled people.
‘Nothing about us without us’ is an ethos which is still not fully understood, even though we have legislation to promote such inclusion, decisions are made every day, about us, without us.
Until it is recognised that it’s disabled people themselves that should be at the heart of all work on this issue social and attitudinal barriers will remain which prevent us accessing justice. And many will have no confidence in those services meant to help us.
It has taken decades of persistent campaigning by disabled people to get what we experience believed, now we have some belief, yet still we are excluded, marginalised, disempowered and treated unfairly due to our impairments.
Every day disabled people are attacked, vilified, treated as less valuable human beings, and killed. Yet still, even with the evidence we have produced, individually and through our own organisations, we do not see a proportionate response to the levels of hostility we face by our government or justice services.
So I ask for a response that is equal to what we experience, an immediate change and inclusion in hate crime law, full recording of crimes, detailed investigations and full access to equality of justice.
The UK has a long way to go and we wait to see all responding and complying with the UN Convention on the Human Rights of Disabled People with us, disabled people and our own organisations at the heart of such work.
If you wish to access any information I hold you can contact me via;
DPAC firstname.lastname@example.org or Disability Hate Crime Network face book site. http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=304401563986
Copyright © 2010 Anne Novis.
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