The missing link – perpetrator research on disability hate crime – a government failure and broken promise

In the Equality and Human Rights Commission Report, Hidden in Plain Sight, on which many of the Disability Hate Crime Network Co-ordinators served as expert advisors in a voluntary role in 2012, we pushed for and secured, with the help of allies, this core recommendation among the seven:

• We have a better understanding of the motivations and circumstances of perpetrators and are able to more effectively design interventions.

This was then elaborated on the targeted recommendations thus:

We have a better understanding of the motivations and circumstances of perpetrators and are able to more effectively design interventions
One fundamental issue in dealing with the problem of disability-related harassment, and other forms of abuse, is to understand why it occurs.
The most urgent issue is getting a better understanding of the characteristics and motivations of those who commit acts of disability-related harassment.
In addition, there needs to be more awareness of the general structures and attitudes (and the interactions between them) which give rise to the problem in the first place.
To address these issues, we recommend that:
– targeted research is undertaken in collaboration with the National Offender Management Service and local authorities in Scotland to build a clearer picture of perpetrator profiles, motivations and circumstances and, in particular, to inform prevention and rehabilitation.
– criminal justice agencies support bodies that commission research to stimulate and support studies that look into why harassment occurs in the first place and broader attitudes towards disabled people.

Put simply, this work has not been completed, two years on, although the government accepted the report from the EHRC. I believe, from many private conversations with senior figures inside the criminal justice system that the work on perpetrator research may have been started, but has stalled. Indeed the government accepted that particular recommendation in full – but none of the research promised, as far as I can establish, has been published or circulated. Our understanding of disability hate crime perpetrators remains just as low as before – in fact many people still seem to rely on my chapter in my book, Scapegoat, which analysed motivation in a small number of cases, as the only source, in 2011.

This simply isn’t good enough. With prosecution and conviction figures so parlously low, we desperately need a prevention strategy on disability hate crime. I first wrote about the need for perpetrator research in Getting Away with Murder, published in 2008, (by the charity Scope, the Disabled People’s Council and the magazine Disability Now). I followed this up with more evidence of how perpetrator research on rape, and other forms of hate crime such as race hate crime is helping to shape policy across Europe in my book Scapegoat: Why we are Failing Disabled People (Portobello Press, 2011). How many years more campaigning do we have to do before the motivations of those carrying out these heinous crimes are examined, so that we can understand them and prevent more such crimes happening in the future? Why has the government no sense of urgency about this crime? Do the lives of disabled people carry so little value to the government?

I would love Mr Cameron to prove me wrong, and actually show some energy about sorting out this problem. Once upon a time, he and Mr Osborne waxed lyrical about the Paralympics, and how wonderful disabled people were, but he and his Coalition have stayed stubbornly silent about the scourge of disability hate crime. It’s time to step up and do something positive. Implement that recommendation. Honour that promise. For the sake of the victims, survivors and bereaved families of disability hate crime.

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