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Disability hate crime

This advice applies to Wales

If someone has been violent or hostile towards you because you’re disabled, you have been the victim of a hate incident.

Disability hate incidents can happen anywhere. Sometimes you may know the person who attacked you, sometimes hate incidents are carried out by strangers.

Read this page to find out more about disability hate incidents and hate crime and what you can do about it.

What is a disability hate incident?

Something is a disability hate incident if the victim or anyone else thinks it was carried out because of hostility or prejudice against disabled people.

This means that if you believe something is a hate incident, it should be recorded as such by the person you are reporting it to.

Can you be the victim of a disability hate incident even though you’re not disabled?

You can be the victim of a disability hate incident if someone believes you’re disabled even though you’re not.

You can also be the victim of a disability hate incident because of your association with someone who is disabled - for example, if someone targets you because you have a disabled child.

What type of incidents can be a disability hate incident?

Disability hate incidents can take many forms including:

  • verbal and physical abuse
  • teasing
  • bullying
  • threatening behaviour
  • online abuse
  • threatening or insulting texts
  • damage to property.

It can be a one-off incident or part of an ongoing campaign of harassment or intimidation.

Hate incidents are not only carried out by strangers. It could be carried out by a carer, a neighbour, a teacher or someone you consider a friend.

When is a disability hate incident also a hate crime?

When a disability hate incident becomes a criminal offence, it’s known as a disability hate crime. There are no specific disability hate crimes. Any criminal offence can be a disability hate crime, if the offender targeted you because of their hostility or prejudice against disabled people.

When something is classed as a disability hate crime, the judge can impose a tougher sentence on the offender under the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

Remember, the incident you have suffered may still be a crime even if it’s difficult to show it was carried out because of hostility based on disability.

What’s meant by a disability?

The Criminal Justice Act 2003 defines disability as any physical or mental impairment. This includes persons with physical or learning disabilities.

What can you do about a disability hate incident or crime?

If you’ve experienced a disability hate incident or crime you can report it to the police. You can also report a hate incident or crime even if it wasn’t directed at you. For example, you could be a friend, neighbour, family member, support worker or simply a passer-by.

If you’re being repeatedly harassed by the same person or group of people, it’s best to report all the hate incidents you experience to help the police get the full picture.

When reporting the incident or crime you should say you think it was motivated by hostility or prejudice based on disability.

Your local Citizens Advice Bureau can help you with reporting a hate incident or crime.

Incidents at work

If you’ve experienced acts of hostility or harassment because of disability at work, you may have a discrimination claim under the Equality Act 2010.

Incidents at or near home

Many disability hate incidents happen near the victim’s home. For example, you may be repeatedly harassed or intimidated by neighbours or local youths. People may be throwing things in your garden or damaging your property. Sometimes, disputes with neighbours escalate into verbal or physical abuse.

You can report these incidents to the police. There are also other things you can do to stop these acts.

You can get your local authority or landlord to take action under their anti-social behaviour powers. You can also take civil court action to get compensation and an order to stop the perpetrator continuing with the behaviour under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

Incidents at or near school

When bullying is motivated by hostility or prejudice based on disability, it can be a hate incident. Bullying in itself is not a criminal offence. But if it’s serious enough, it could also be a hate crime. Bullying includes cyber bullying.

If you’ve experienced bullying, the school should deal with it under their behaviour policy. They should also co-operate with the police and social services if they become involved.

If the school fails to deal with the bullying, you may have a discrimination claim under the Equality Act 2010. You may also be able to challenge the schools failure to act under their public sector equality duty.

Next steps

Other useful information

  • Go to the Disability Rights UK website for more information on disability hate crime, at www.disabilityrightsuk.org
  • Call the Stop Learning Disability Hate Crime helpline on 0808 802 1155 for support and information on learning disability hate crime. The helpline is open 24 hours a day. Go to the Stop Hate UK website for more information at www.stophateuk.org
  • Go to the Mencap Cymru website for information on learning disability hate crime in Wales, at www.mencap.org.uk
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