Violent and online disability hate crime on the rise in South Yorkshire
An investigation by two learning disability charities has found that reports of violent and online disability hate crime in South Yorkshire has risen since 2009-2010.
The figures have been released ahead of National Disability Hate Crime Awareness Week, which starts on October 9.
Leonard Cheshire and United Response conducted consultations with a range of disabled people in the UK to find out about individual experiences of disability hate crime.
One of those interviewed said: “I had almost 50,000 followers on a social media platform when I was targeted by trolls that set up hate pages. The abuse was motivated by the fact that I have autism and am a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
“They revealed my real name and where I lived. The social media platform just told me to make my account private but took no action to identify the trolls or remove their hateful content. The police also just told me to unlink or deactivate my social profiles.”
South Yorkshire Police recorded a total of 398 disability hate crimes in 2020-21, more than half (57%) of which were classed by the authorities as ‘violent’ – including assault and possession of weapons.
Online disability hate crime increased by 43 per cent in South Yorkshire last year, with 60 individual disability cybercrimes reported during the 12 months.
Just four disability hate crimes received a police charge or were referred to the Crown Prosecution Service in 2020-21, which is one less than in the previous year.
The charities are calling for disability hate crime to be taken more seriously by the public and the authorities, believing that the number of reported online disability hate crimes is likely to be higher in reality.
A United Response and Leonard Cheshire spokesperson said: “Many disabled people we spoke to said they wouldn’t report their hate crime to the police, so our findings are likely to scarcely scratch the surface of the true scale of these horrific incidents.
“The stories we’ve heard suggest many police officers do not have a good understanding of disability, so we’re calling for a specialist disability liaison officer in every police force. We also want the Government to make disability hate crime easier to report and hope the upcoming Home Office Hate Crime Strategy will address just this.
“As well as greater support for victims, a critical step toward tackling hate crime is creating a more accepting society where differences are tolerated. The Government's National Disability Strategy promised a disability awareness raising campaign – this is an opportunity to educate everyone, including young people and those in school, about disability hate crime.”
United Response and Leonard Cheshire are encouraging people to show their support by signing up to the campaign and by sharing the data with the hashtag #noplaceforhate.
An interactive map highlighting the extent of disability hate crime across all regions of England and Wales over the past two years can be seen here.
*Name has been changed to protect identity