Progress in tackling disability-related harassment

Published on Thursday, 12 December 2013 10:14
Written by Govtoday staff

A new report published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission reveals that some public bodies have made progress in tackling disability-related harassment but overall, more needs to be done.

The recent case of Bijan Ebrahimi highlights the urgent need for authorities to take further steps to ensure that harassment is taken more seriously. According to media reports, Ebrahimi was abused for years because of his disability but did not receive the protection he needed.

The report follows the Commission's Manifesto for Change published last year which made recommendations for organisations such as the police and local authorities to help prevent verbal and physical attacks on disabled people.

Since then, many of the Commission's recommendations - including better recording of incidents, improved support for victims and inclusion of disabled people in developing measures to tackle harassment - have been adopted.

The Commission welcomes the commitment and progress made by the government in putting the victim first within the justice system. These include changes to the way the law both protects disabled people and determines sanctions against perpetrators; the adoption of measures to tackle and manage repeat offending, and ensuring that resources are focused on those most in need.

It also notes the development of work by authorities on reporting, recording and recognition of disability-related harassment, but is concerned to see that this remains a significant problem.

The Government's response to the Commission's consultation showed that 1,744 (4 per cent) of hate crimes recorded by the police in England and Wales were disability related, showing a substantial gap in reporting when compared to the 2010/2011 British Crime Survey(1) estimates of 65,000 incidents each year.

The Government highlighted a number of strategies to address this, including a project in collaboration with Crown Prosecution Service Hate Crime Co-ordinators; the inclusion of markers on the Magistrates' Court data system to identify when a crime has been treated as a disability hate crime; and an audit of disability hate crime cases in 11 police force and related CPS areas.

Evidence from the Commission's 2011 major inquiry into disability related harassment indicated that a victim of harassment may experience a number of incidents before the first call is made. It recommended that police focus on the number of incidents, rather than the call rate.

The Commission is therefore disappointed that no progress been made to address this important recommendation which, if properly implemented, would ensure an accurate record of the victim's experience and provide valuable insight into the prevention of disability-related harassment.

The Commission is also calling for more action to build disabled people's confidence in using public transport. It noted the British Transport Police had made significant progress and disability equality training for bus drivers was a positive move.

Further reviews will take place again in two years and four years time.

Chris Holmes, Disability Commissioner at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: "Although we were encouraged by some of the positive examples of progress by public authorities, the tragic case of Ebrahimi is a stark reminder of the fact that many disabled people are abused daily and don't get the protection they need and are entitled to expect.

"The Commission will continue to act as a critical friend to support authorities in fully implementing our recommendations and working towards the elimination of this particularly nasty crime."

Source: EHRC

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