Disabled hate crimes rise by 270%

Massive rise in offensive acts against people with disabilities. Picture: John Devlin
Massive rise in offensive acts against people with disabilities. Picture: John Devlin
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HATE CRIMES against the disabled have more than tripled in five years, with prosecutors and campaigners warning the rise could be “the tip of the iceberg”.

Reports of aggravation of prejudice relating to disability have risen by 270 per cent from 48 in the year ending March 2011 to 177 last year, official figures from the Crown Office reveal.

“This is so common that it is not often reported”

Jan Savage, Disability Agenda

There has been a 20 per cent increase since 2013/14 alone.

The report states: “There is a broad consensus that this type of crime continues to be under-reported compared to other forms of hate crime.

“Police Scotland and Copfs (Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service) are engaged in activities aimed at increasing awareness, especially amongst disability communities, that hate crime is unacceptable and should not be tolerated.”

The massive rise in offensive acts against people with disabilities stands in stark contrast to an overall decrease in hate crimes across all other categories in the past year.

Jan Savage, policy group chair for the alliance organisation Disability Agenda Scotland, agreed the problem is likely to be much worse than figures suggest.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” she said.

“The horrific murder of Lee Irving in Newcastle only this week highlights the discrimination and physical and verbal intimidation which people who have learning disabilities experience day in, day out. So common that it is often not reported.”

Several people were arrested after Mr Irving, 24, was found murdered last weekend.

“It is heartening to see police and prosecutors dealing with the problem robustly, but disabled people need to have more confidence in the reporting system,” added Ms Savage.

Racial crime remains the most commonly reported hate crime, with 3,785 charges in the past year. This is the lowest number since 2003/04.

Offences against sexual orientation were the second most common type of hate crime, though the number of charges reported decreased by five per cent in 2014-15 to 841.

This is the first annual fall in charges since the legislation introducing the factor of aggravation came into force in 2010.

Charges reported in 2014/15 for threatening communications were six per cent lower than in 2013-14, at 193.

The number of religiously aggravated charges reported, at 569, is at its lowest level since 2004-05. Including charges now reported under Offensive Behaviour at Football legislation, religious related charges are at their lowest level since 2009-10.

The number of people charged under the controversial football hate crime laws has also fallen slightly, to 193.

Figures show that the accused had an affiliation with Rangers in 30 per cent of cases, Aberdeen in 16 per cent, Celtic in 10 per cent and Hibs in eight per cent.