New figures show the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is making good progress in prosecuting disability hate crimes successfully, say disabled activists.
Last year (2010-11), the number of successful convictions for disability hate crime-related offences rose from 483 to 579 across England and Wales.
The proportion of prosecutions that led to a successful disability hate crime conviction also increased, from 75.7 per cent in 2009-10 to 79.8 per cent in 2010-11.
The figures are contained in the CPS’s new Hate Crime and Crimes against Older People Report 2010-11.
Stephen Brookes, a coordinator of the Disability Hate Crime Network, said he was encouraged by the new figures, although he said they also showed there was “still a long way to go” in tackling disability hate crime.
But he said the CPS should be applauded for “taking the community with them”, by working with disabled people and disabled people’s organisations.
He said the figures showed that disabled people were becoming more confident in reporting such crimes to the police, although hate crime was far more common than the figures suggested because many were still not being reported.
He said: “The more confidence we get in that reporting process, the more closely those figures will start to reflect the reality. We have got to get more people reporting them.”
In his local area, a new reporting centre has caused reports to rise from just four hate crimes investigated by police in the year to July 2011 across Blackpool and parts of Lancashire to 24 cases reported just in Blackpool in the last six months, 11 of which are being investigated by police.
But the CPS report also shows that the number of cases referred to CPS by the police for a decision on whether there should be a charge fell by more than four per cent to 690.
Brookes said this was probably because police forces were working more closely with CPS to ensure they only referred cases with a genuine chance of a successful conviction, a result of the “multi-agency approach” that he and other campaigners have been calling for.
The report shows that nearly a quarter of disability hate crime defendants were women, a far higher proportion than for racist and religiously-aggravated (16.6 per cent) and homophobic (12.6 per cent) hate crime prosecutions.
More than two-fifths of disability hate crimes were for “offences against the person”, such as assault, while nearly a third were for offences of dishonesty, such as robbery, theft and fraud, a significantly higher proportion than with other hate crimes.
In all, the CPS prosecuted 15,284 hate crimes, up from 13,921 in 2009-10.
Last year, Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions, said the CPS was “still in the foothills when it comes to disability hate crime and supporting victims and witnesses with disabilities”.
This week he said: “The CPS has an important part to play in tackling hate crime in our society, and I am encouraged by these statistics that we are on a firm footing to continue that fight.
“There is a lot more that needs to be done, within society as a whole, particularly in the area of crimes against the disabled community as I have already acknowledged.”
A spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) said police forces recognised that “building confidence, particularly for reporting disability-related hate crime, remains a significant challenge”.
He said ACPO was looking into why the number of cases passed to the CPS fell in 2010-11, but he added: “The number of disability-related hate crime cases referred by police to the CPS has increased by 147 per cent in the past four years, which does reflect increasing trust in people coming forward to report such crimes.
“While the number of cases referred to prosecutors has fallen slightly in the past year, the service remains committed to tackling this and other forms of hate crime and improving our service to victims.”