Recorded levels of disability hate crime have almost doubled in one year, according to new police figures.
The Association of Chief Police Officers figures show there were 1,402 recorded disability hate crimes across England, Wales and Northern Ireland during 2009.
It was the first full year since police forces started collecting figures for disability hate crime in April 2008, but in 2008 (with estimates for January to March) there were just 800 such crimes.
The new figures also show huge variations between police areas, which disabled activists say demonstrates how some forces treat the issue less seriously than others.
Avon and Somerset police recorded 78 disability hate crimes during 2009, the Metropolitan police recorded 99, and Thames Valley police 102, whereas Cleveland police recorded zero (one of three forces to state that there was not a single disability hate crime in the entire year).
Anne Novis, one of the coordinators of the Disability Hate Crime Network and a leading campaigner, welcomed the rising numbers of recorded crimes because it shows that “at last it is on the radar”.
She said: “At last they are collecting figures and people are starting to talk about it.”
But she said the striking variation between different forces showed the need for police to invest in training for their officers.
She said: “There has been no appropriate national training [which offers] consistent best practice, pan-impairment, social model on disability hate crime going out to police officers. That is one of the reasons we are not getting a consistent approach.”
Novis also warned that budget cuts could lead to a loss of momentum on the issue among police forces.
And she said there was still a need for new, stronger legislation on sentencing for disability hate crimes.
During 2009 there was a total of 52,028 hate crimes recorded across race, religious belief, sexual orientation, disability or because a person was transgender, a rise from 46,300 in 2008.
Chief constable Stephen Otter, ACPO’s lead for equality, diversity and human rights, said: “Whilst we want to reduce the incidence of these crimes, it is vital that we close the gap of under-reporting.
“We are making real progress in this critical area through standardised reporting and better recording and we continue to work to improve our support to victims of hate crime.”
The figures were released as a civil servant was seconded from the government’s Office for Disability Issues to work for the disability charity RADAR on fighting hate crime.
James Pool will work with criminal justice agencies to develop a national, independent disability hate crime reporting centre, minimum standards for reporting centres and a plan to raise disabled people’s awareness of hate crime.
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan police are seeking to recruit disabled volunteers for their new independent advisory group, which will examine how disabled people are affected by policing in London.
Members will act as “critical friends” and form a link between disabled people and the police in London.
For more information, tel: 020 7161 2719, email: email@example.com textphone 18001 020 7161 2719 or text: 07920 768425. The closing date for applicants is 24 December.