Within the space of a short time in late May and early June, the differences in the following cases – related to three attacks on people with learning disabilities – are so clearly contrasting, indeed contradictory, in terms of how police determine cases of disability hate crime.
Recompenz finds that two subsequent attacks on men with learning disabilities in Hyde, near Manchester, dont even get a look-in on whether disability hate crime has occurred. Yet the murder of Lee Irving in Fawdon, near Newcastle, almost immediately gets described as a disability hate crime.
It seems the Irving case has gained its categorisation (a much appreciated move by police) due to the two very recent failures by Northumbria Police in terms of disability hate crime. These are Alan Barnes (a much celebrated case that received an extraordinary amount of media coverage where disability hate crime as a factor was pencilled in – almost at the last minute without success) and Scott Hall (a much lesser known case beset by difficulties across the different investigation threads in knowing how, or why, he died.)
These three new cases simply expose the inconsistencies in how police determine disability hate crime. Yes two were horrific attacks and one was a dreadful murder. But why would there be any difference? In Recompenz’ view all these cases should be treated as disability hate crime, until irrevocably proved otherwise. After all the CJA 2003 doesn’t say that people have to know a disabled person for an act to be a disability hate crime….
Other factors to consider in terms of disability hate crime/Northumbria Police:
In addition to aforementioned cases, there’s also the Peter Hedley murder which comes under Northumbria Police’s jurisdiction. Two points regarding this: One – we are looking at incidents against people with learning disabilities, and two – the Hedley case seems very difficult to prove as per the CJA2003. Clearly the fault in Northumbria Police was to not treat it as a disability hate crime from the point at which Hedley’s body was found.
Therefore we could also say the Hedley case had some bearing too on Northumbria Police’s current decision to categorise the Irving matter as one of hate crime.
In terms of disability hate crime (as revealed in previous Recompenz posts) Northumbria Police were quite a trend setting force in terms of raising awareness upon disability hate crime. The force’s comprehensive poster, media and video campaign certainly put disability hate crime in the spotlight. Sadly their pioneering work seems to have fallen by the wayside, hence these recent aforementioned failures may have woken the force to the realities of disability hate crime.
Northumbria was the location for the Brent Martin and Christine Lakinski incidents (both occurred in 2007). The Brent Martin case was especially virulent in its calls for better justice and awareness in terms of disability hate crime. Has it really taken Northumbria Police eight years to fully realise the true implications of disability hate crime?
**Addendum: The Chronicle reported today (11th June 2015) that reported numbers of disability hate crime in the Northumbria Police area had fallen. In 2014 the count was 71, whilst in 2014 it was just 43. Link: Chronicle
Hyde attacks: Two men with learning difficulties brutally injured in space of a week
01 Jun 2015 – 11:02AM | By Tommy WilsonA man with learning difficulties was left with a fractured skull and bleed on the brain after being brutally attacked and robbed in Hyde, whilst another was also left needing dental treatment following a separate attack.
The first incident occurred after 11.30pm on Sunday May 24, when a 40-year-old man was attacked from behind by a group of 4-6 men after getting off a bus at Market Street.
The victim was hit on the head with an unknown implement causing him to fall to the floor where the group proceeded to kick and punch him before grabbing his rucksack, containing an iPod, and running off along Tower Street and then left towards Dowson Road.
The man did not initially report the incident to police and went home, but several days later his family discovered him and took him to hospital where he is being treated for a fractured skull and a bleed on the brain.
Detective Constable Claire Titterington said: “We have managed to get an initial account from the victim’s family, however he remains in hospital.
“We are now reviewing CCTV from the bus and in Hyde but would ask if anyone was on that bus or in the area at the time that they contact us immediately.”
In a separate incident, another man with learning difficulties was also attacked and robbed in Hyde at around 3.15am on Saturday May 30.
The 21-year-old had been out drinking in the town centre with friends and was walking home on Manchester Road.
As he walked near to the Aldi store, a group of people approached him and he was attacked, before they left with his mobile phone.
Detective Constable Marc Barker said: “This is the second time a person with learning difficulties has been the victim of such an assault but at the moment, we cannot link the two incidents.
“Unfortunately we do not have any descriptions of the offenders but we are eager to track down any witnesses who saw what happened.
“The victim suffered injuries to his nose and mouth and it is likely he will require dental treatment in the future. If you were walking or driving on Manchester Road at the time of the attack, please call us.”
Anyone with information should call police on 0161 856 9389 or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Man’s Murder Treated As Disability Hate Crime
Six people have been arrested over the killing of a man with learning difficulties whose body was discovered near a pathway.
23:05, UK,Monday 08 June 2015
Lee Irving was described as “vulnerable”
The murder of a 24-year-old man is being treated by investigators as a disability hate crime.
Lee Irving, who had learning difficulties and was described as “vulnerable”, was found on a grassed area in the Fawdon area of Newcastle on Saturday morning.
He was declared dead at the scene by emergency services and a murder inquiry was launched following a post-mortem examination.
Four men and two women have been arrested on suspicion of murder.
A statement from Mr Irving’s family paid tribute to a “wonderful young man” who was “loved by many”.
“He will be very sadly missed by all who knew him,” it said.
“What we have lost is irreplaceable and we must live with our loss every day.
“We would like to thank everyone who has supported us at this devastating time.
“Lee will always remain in our hearts and thoughts.”
Mr Irving’s body was found on a grassed area in Fawdon
His mother Bev wrote on Facebook that her son “had the mind of an eight-year-old”.
Police said the local community was “shocked and appalled” by the killing of Mr Irving, who was from Camperdown, East Denton.
Extra officers are carrying out patrols in the area to reassure the public.
Superintendent Bruce Storey said: “It’s thought those involved in this incident know each other.
“Lee had learning difficulties and was vulnerable.
“One of our key lines of inquiry was to establish whether this is a factor in his death and a motivation in this crime.
“It’s important those suspected of being responsible face the consequences of their actions and I would urge anyone who was in Fawdon on Saturday morning, between 7am and 9am, to come forward and speak to us.
“If they saw anything at all that seemed out of the ordinary, no matter how insignificant they think it is we would ask them to get in contact.
“Extra officers will continue to carry out patrols in the area to offer reassurance to the local community, who understandably are shocked and appalled by this tragic death.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact Northumbria Police on 101 ext 69191 quoting reference 407 060615 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.