Disability hate crime and Gypsies and Travellers

I was at the Home Office yesterday, attending a meeting to look at the implementation of the Equality Commission’s report on disability targeted harassment in the police service, in my role as one of the advisors to the Association of Chief Police Officers and the National Policing Improvement Agency on this subject. I was really heartened to see both the commitment to change by senior police officers and their interest in the subject. We’ve come a long way from my first days investigating disability hate crime in 2007, when police officers would deny that disability hate crime existed. I can’t say much about the specific proposals but expect good work to come through on perpetrators, motivations and more linking up with other agencies. I am pushing for the Crown Prosecution Service Scrutiny Panels to start dip-sampling safeguarding cases – cases of so-called ‘vulnerable adult’ abuse that get lost in the safeguarding system and rarely reach the police. I believe that is where the missing disability hate crime cases are – and we need to find them and prosecute the perpetrators.

At the end of the meeting I had a chat to one of the Government’s senior advisors on hate crime. I wanted to know whether there was any data on crimes committed against Gypsies and Travellers. There isn’t really for several reasons. One is that until the 2011 Census Gypsies, Roma and Travellers couldn’t even define themselves as such – they had to tick the ‘white other’ box. I have to tick the mixed race ‘other’ box myself, as a half-Iranian, and it always irritates me but I understand we are a small-ish community. This isn’t true of Gypsies and Travellers- they are one of the biggest minority ethnic groups in the country – without even mentioning the ever-growing Roma community. And the British Crime Survey, which proved so useful to me when I was scoping the scale of disability hate crime (before it was being collected by police forces) is useless when it comes to Gypsies, Roma and Travellers – because it visits households and not, apparently, sites. So their experience of crime is uncollected – and therefore little, or nothing is done about it. As a senior police officer told me a few years ago, if crime isn’t measured, it can’t become a target to be tackled. So crimes against these communities will remain the lowest of priorities.

We are half-way up the mountain on tackling disability hate crime. We are not even on the foothills when it comes to tackling crimes against these communities.

Gypsies & Gorgias: The Road Beyond Dale Farm

I’m hard at work, finishing off my second non-fiction book, for adults, provisionally entitled Gypsies and Gorgias: The Road beyond Dale Farm, for Oneworld Publications, due out next year. I’ve travelled through much of England and further afield this year and last, visiting Gypsies, Travellers and New Travellers, in a quest to discover what the future might hold for these communities. I’m hoping to deliver my manuscript in December.

I’ve also continued with my ongoing commitments to disability equality, serving as an advisor to the EHRC’s committee on the manifesto for change on disability harassment, and also to ACPO and NPIA on the same issues. I continue as a volunteer co-ordinator at the Disability Hate Crime Network, as well as continuing to investigate issues around disability. Over the last few months I’ve reported or been interviewed about disability for C4 News, ITV, LBC, Hispan TV and written about the subject for the Guardian and Independent.

I’m also excited about my next book for children, Rosy gets the Plot, going into the R&D phase at the Little Angel Theatre in Islington – can’t wait to see the work in progress next month. I’m also developing a thriller for older age children – watch this space.