Hate Crime debated at the Disability Capital Conference, Excel Centre, London, 17 March 2005.

Hate Crime debated at the Disability Capital Conference, London, 17th March 2005.

ROY WEBB: I want to ask a question relating to hate crimes. We discovered at last year’s disability capital event, that the experience of abuse and violent crime and the fear of that one of the biggest issues facing disabled Londoners. I want to ask, I know some areas of London, for example Greenwich, local organisations of disabled people have set up lay reporting centres where disabled people can go and report their experience of hate crime and harassment to other disabled people in a frank and informal way and get support from that organisation on a wide range of issues not just make a report but I wonder what the panel thought of those kind of initiatives and what steps can be taken to increase the number of reporting centres in London.

David Morris, Lee Jasper and Nicky Gavron

LEE JASPER:  Hate crimes?

Kirsten Hearn

KIRSTEN HEARN:  Me again. Its an important point and many disabled people fear reporting hate crimes to police because they fear they will not be believed and it is hard to report. Specially if you are a Mental Health system user or a person learning difficulties and/or black as well, there are huge issues because we know that some of our brothers and sisters have died in the cells and we fear if we report something we might end up in a cell ourselves and there is a big issue. In Greenwich there is a third party reporting system, which is something that I know that the Metropolitan Police service does want to rollout across the city but actually needs the co-operation of disabled people’s organisations and other organisations to do that, because that disabled people will not go to the police, they can’t get into the police station they can’t report anything to the police station because its an inaccessible process and will not want to be more confident in going to their local groups and yes it’s something that I think is really important because most people don’t believe that hate crimes are perpetrated against disabled people and many people here have experienced it including myself and we find it hard to talk about because its traumatic. You are being challenged because of who you are it’s an identity crime hurting people at the core of who they are. It’s important as disabled people and our organisations that we get together and we try to challenge the police. But we also try to set up ways in which we can hear from our brothers’ and sisters’ experience so we can help them take them forward.

LEE JASPER:  Thank you, Kirsten.

Maria Eagle

MARIA EAGLE: I think that initiative that Roy and Kirsten have been talking about is helpful at a local level with police force. I think it’s helpful. The Government since reading the report that the GLA produced last year which highlighted I think perhaps more than anything else the hate crime and there is no other phrase for it really that disabled people put up with. The Government have done 2 things. One is to change the criminal justice legislation. To make harassment or hate crime on the basis of disability and aggravating feature in sentencing. So now if you engage in that kind of behaviour and you target somebody for that kind of behaviour because of a disability, you can be given a bigger and greater sentence when you are convicted for doing that. That is a strong signal that society disapproves of this kind of behaviour. An aggravating factor which means that you get a higher sentence.

It means that society is saying we do not want you to behaviour in this manner its worse than beating somebody up. It’s beating them up because they are disabled. That is what that says. The other thing we have made, we have specified harassment in the Disability Discrimination Act it used to sort of be implied if you harass somebody that was discriminatory we made that specific and overt in the Disability Discrimination Bill. That harassment is discrimination and we have done those 2 things which I think strengthen the law to a degree.

LEE JASPER:  Thank you for that, Minister.

Julie Charles

JULIE CHARLES:  Can everybody hear me okay? I think when we talk about hate crime I am coming from equalities and although we are based in Waltham Forest and the police there have begun to pick up on the fact that disabled people do experience hate crime, our advocates are working with the that but it’s very, very early days. My main concern is, you know it’s quite obvious being black and disabled, I think it’s a huge factor, I don’t think it’s a factor that is really looked into enough. A lot of our hate crime comes from the police itself. I am sorry to say, but it’s true, I think that is also something else that needs to be looked into. Hate is quite a heavy word and racism also can come in its nasty ness and it can come in voices. It can come in the way that people treat you, in different manners. Coming here today it was not just to respond to questions, but also to remind people of you know, that the public sector duty itself, it has its – it is good but it does have a lot of work to do to actuall
y incorporate the needs of BME disabled people that is not really being incorporated right now. The DDA has not really comforted us, it has not really assisted us in the way that we feel it should. And many of us talk about diversity and equality, and I think we need to speak openly within the disabled people’s movement as well as non-disabled people’s movement on what hate racism and institutional racism and discrimination really is. {Applause}.

LEE JASPER:  I am going to move to another question. 

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