UK Disability Hate Crime Rises 43% in Single Year
Synopsis: The latest UK Government statistics released in October 2022 show some staggering increases in recorded hate crimes. Interestingly, the research didn't find any evidence that those on low incomes, such as benefit claimants themselves, seemed to be driving these rises in hate crime, nor did the results show any connection with welfare reform and non-hate crime. Such hikes in crime are still primarily argued by Government to be due to a better recording of incidents introduced in 2014, as well as more people coming forward to report incidents...
Latest UK Government statistics released in October 2022 show some staggering increases in recorded hate crimes. In just 12 months, Racial hatred went up 19%, Religious hatred up 37%, Sexual Orientation up 41%, Disability up 43%, and Transgender up 56%. Such hikes in crime are still primarily argued by Government to be due to a better recording of incidents introduced in 2014, as well as more people coming forward to report incidents. This quote accompanied the statistics.
"...due to significant improvements in police recorded crime made in recent years, it is uncertain to what degree the increase in police recorded hate crime is a genuine rise, or due to continued recording improvements and more victims having the confidence to report these crimes to the police." (Hate crime, England and Wales, 2011 to 2022 - October 6th, 2022)
However, if there is any uncertainty over the cause of these rising 'hate' figures, then Government should be trying to find out, and unsurprisingly, there seems little appetite to do so. In reality, we are dealing with a social problem stuffed full of contentious political issues - not simply social ones. For a start, there have been widespread cuts in public spending since 2010, which has clearly impacted upon the police and their numbers. In 2019, for example, figures from GMB (the union for police staff) highlighted that 23,500 police jobs had been lost in England and Wales since 2010. And a statement released in August this year by The National Police Chiefs Council reported that crime detection and charge rates had subsequently dropped over the same period, something argued to be caused by such job losses. In short, the police can't be expected to do their job fully if they have fewer and fewer staff.
John Pring of the Disability News Service ran a recent article on the 10th of November 2022 questioning why the number of people being prosecuted for hate crimes perpetrated against disabled people had actually fallen since 2014. Here is a quote from that article:
"The key reason for the fall is a huge drop in the number of disability hate crime cases being passed by police to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for charging decisions, which has fallen from 924 in 2014-15 to just 243 last year."
The article also paints a picture of 'systemic' failings within the police force itself, particularly at the leadership level and especially in reporting hate crimes perpetrated against disability. Disabled people are also reported by the article not only to be dissatisfied with policing in general but have experience of police officers who have displayed 'ableist' attitudes towards them. So, while hate crimes against disabled people are increasing according to official statistics, for whatever that reason that may be, prosecutions have actually fallen.
And complaints that the police are failing to tackle disability hate crime are not the only concern we have here in the UK. Victims of domestic violence, burglaries, theft, child abuse, sexual exploitation, rape and fraud have raised public concern over failures to investigate and subsequently prosecute such crimes. In short, the police service in the UK is argued to underfunded, in complete disarray and not fit for purpose.
If we also consider leaked Government reports from 2018 that claimed funding cuts have actually contributed to rises in crime, particularly violent crime, then the argument that a rise in hate crime stems primarily from changes in recording methods now seems a touch disingenuous. Something highlighted in a paper by Kerry Bray and Nils Braakmann released in February this year, who presented strong empirical evidence that welfare cuts adopted as part of the UK's austerity programme by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Government in 2010 had indeed led to increases in racially or religiously motivated crimes recorded in England and Wales. The authors argued that these results gave weight to 'Group Conflict Theory', a theory where depleting resources create a sense of scarcity and therefore increased competition between differing social groups. And it is this perceived scarcity and perceived increased competition for resources that causes conflict such as hate crime.
Interestingly, the research didn't find any evidence that it was those on low incomes such as benefit claimants themselves who seemed to be driving these rises in hate crime, nor did the results show any connection with welfare reform and non-hate crime. Although there was a link found between the areas hit hardest by welfare reform and a decline in community cohesion. Clearly, if there is such a link between race or religious hate crime and cuts to welfare spending, it isn't those arguably most effected by cuts that seem to taking out any frustration felt towards other social groups. While the authors don't go into the whys and therefore, they do suggest that any tensions and perceptions of competition between the dominant White group and the minority ethnic or religious groups could have been influenced by the negative political and media rhetoric over immigration that we have seen for some time now. With constant portrayals of immigrants and asylum seekers as being a drain on public services and resources. Which of course has implications for disabled people too, who were at one time also pilloried by British politicians and the British press for being potential benefit cheats and fakes.
While the jury is out on what causes what, it is certain that disabled people still suffer from negative attitudes towards them. And if some members of the Police can be argued to be 'ableist', what about the rest of us? A new survey this year by Scope gave us an up-to-date insight on that score:
- 75% of disabled people have experienced negative attitudes and behaviour from others in the last five years. For disabled women and younger people these experiences are more frequent.
- 36% of disabled people experienced negative attitudes and behaviours over the last 12 months. This increases to 50% for those under the age of 55.
- Making assumptions & judgements about the ability of disabled people - experienced by 33% of disabled people.
- Dismissing the disability or condition - experienced by 27% of disabled people.
- Accusations of faking disability or laziness - 25%
- Accusations of being a benefit scrounger - 16%
Of those displaying such attitudes this can be broken down to the general public 42%, those on public transport 39%, family 29% and friends 25%. What is arguably most striking about such survey work is the fact that negative attitudes towards disability are not simply the preserve of strangers. Certainly, this has implications for hate crime research itself. While hate crime in general has often been considered to be transient and fleeting, committed primarily by complete strangers, this is not always the case when considering hate crime towards disability (especially those crimes classed as 'mate crime'). Of course, holding negative attitudes does not equate to a criminal offence. But within psychology, prejudice is often considered to be an unjustified, incorrect and often negative attitude towards an individual based solely on that individual's membership of a social group. While definitions of hate crime are usually centred around violence that is motivated by prejudice. So, if disabled people are facing continuous or increasingly negative attitudes from both strangers and family, would it be a complete surprise if we see both prejudice towards disability and hate crime increasing?
Personally, I think we also need to be looking critically at the numbers of disability hate crimes that are being recorded by the police. In 2017/18 this figure was 7,221, by 2021/22 this figure had almost doubled to 14,242. Shocking yes but considering that more than 14 million people exist in the UK, then this figure looks incredulously low. From my own experience of being in contact with victims of disability hate crime, many had suffered not only one incident but multiple incidents and quite a few hadn't even reported them. According to surveys run by charities such as Changing Faces, the vast majority of victims still do report disability hate crimes to the police, with some not even realising that these are indeed crimes. And if we take the National Crime Survey for England & Wales, then more people experience disability hate crime than is often officially recorded by the police. In 2019, the National Office for Statistics (ONS) put this figure around 52,000 per year. Compared to the 8,250 in 2018/2019 that were officially recorded by the police.
Of course, we can always pick fault with any statistics or data set and the above are no exception, being small scale projects and/or involving a limited number of respondents. And no doubt better reporting techniques and encouraging victims to come forward has helped boost official hate crime figures. However, these are complex topics and the academic research needed on these matters in order to clarify things is still limited and arguably limited for a very good reason - if you don't look, you won't find. Research and politics will never be completely independent from each other, as research is totally dependent upon funding. Something especially true in the UK and some may not want to rock the boat if they feel it may make it more difficult to attract funding, especially funding from the taxpayer.
- Disability News Service 10th November 2022.
- Hate crime, England and Wales 2011 to 2022 - October 6th 2022. www.gov.uk
- Kerry Bray and Nils Braakmann. Austerity, welfare cuts and hate crime: Evidence from the UK's Age of Austerity (2022).
- Scope: Attitudes and Disability - The experiences of disabled people (2022).
British born Paul Dodenhoff, is a regular contributor of UK disability related news and content. Paul has always taken an interest in disability issues, and writes for Disabled-World trying to highlight issues that don't always get a great deal of attention from Britain's popular media. Paul Dodenhoff completed a part-time Open University Bachelor of Science degree in Social Problems, Health and Social Welfare; graduating at the Guild Hall, Preston, United Kingdom. He also gained a part-time Master of Arts degree in Research Methodology in 2003 with the Open University; graduating at the UNESCO headquarters, Paris.
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Disabled World is an independent disability community founded in 2004 to provide disability news and information to people with disabilities, seniors, their family and/or carers. See our homepage for informative reviews, exclusive stories and how-tos. You can connect with us on social media such as X.com and our Facebook page.
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