Real Hosts Pan-London Disability Hate Crime Awareness Event

DHC logo pic

Real Action Against Disability Hate Crime disability hate crime awareness event  #NHCAW

12 October 2017 hosted by Real and HEAR Charities Against Hate Crime

 

On 12 October 2017 Real, together with HEAR Charities Against Hate Crime, hosted a pan-London Disability Hate Crime awareness event at Jack Dash House. The event aimed to bring together organisations that are tackling disability hate crime to discuss what the organisations are going to do about disability hate crime after National Hate Crime Awareness Week 2017.

 

The event saw guest speakers from Changing Faces, Lambeth Disability Hate Crime Project, Lewisham Speak Up, National Hate Crime Awareness Week, and the HEAR Charities Against Hate Crime Network. Also attending the event were a wide range of participants from Victim Support, London Councils, charities supporting adults with disabilities, and disabled London residents.

 

Disability hate crime and the law

 

First a bit of background. Disability hate crime occurs when hostility is shown to a person based on by their disability (perceived or actual) or the offence was wholly/partly motivated by hostility towards persons who have a disability/a particular disability (perceived or actual) (section 146 Criminal Justice Act 2003). There is no specific offence of disability hate crime, nor does an offence become an ‘aggravated’ offence when disability hate crime occurs. The current law is that a sentence for the main or underlying offence committed (for example harassment or common assault) can be increased when the offence involves hostility based on or motivated by disability as above. Further information on the scope and application of the current law can be found at http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/d_to_g/disability_hate_crime/#a06.

 

Sessions

 

In the first session Phyllida Swift from Changing Faces, a charity supporting disfigurement hate crime, explained how hate crime is often specifically targeted against those with a disfigurement. Phyllida explained that a ‘disfigurement’ can include any mark, scar or condition that affects a person’s appearance, including for example birthmarks, skin conditions, and hair loss caused by alopecia. Some individuals, she explained, do not however identify with the term ‘disfigurement’ and prefer to use the term ‘visible difference’ or ‘unusual appearance’. Phyllida stressed that the current law is inadequate as it only protects those with a “severe” disfigurement under the Equality Act 2010 within the scope of disability discrimination in civil law, and is not specifically protected at all in criminal law except within disability hate crime. The civil law ignores individuals without “severe” disfigurement, and the scope of “severe” disfigurement is in any event not clearly defined. Also in its inclusion under ‘disability’, the law alienates those individuals who don’t identify having a disfigurement with having a disability. Phyllida also stressed that while a massive 81.3% of respondents to their survey had experienced disfigurement hate crime ranging from staring and comments to more serious incidents, only a tiny 14.1% of respondents actually reported their incidents. Sadly, respondents said they didn’t want to report incidents because they didn’t think the police would take their report seriously or behave properly. Phyllida stressed that more must be done to educate all relevant professionals and the public in general about disfigurement hate crime, and encourage the police to prioritise disfigurement hate crime. You can find out more about Changing Faces and the services they offer at https://changingfaces.org.uk/.

 

In the second session Lewisham Speaking Up explained the services they offer and showed several hard-hitting videos depicting individuals with a disability experiencing disability hate crime through taking their money, inappropriate touching, calling names, stealing and taking over their flat, and the ways to report hate crime incidents. A clip of this video series is available on YouTube at https://youtu.be/9gDtgjYLqDc. Lewisham Speaking Up explained that barriers to people with a disability reporting a disability hate crime can often include fears that the police won’t do anything, confidence and/or communication difficulties, and not knowing they can do anything about the incident. You can find out more about Lewisham Speaking Up and the services they offer at http://www.lsup.org.uk/.

 

In the third session Disability Advice Service Lambeth (DASL) explained the services they offer and about the work of the Lambeth Disability Care Partnership. DASL explained that, concerningly, police often view disability hate crime incidents as anti-social behaviour and are unwilling to report it as a hate crime. Even when it is accepted to be a disability hate crime incident, police often don’t actually flag the report as disability hate crime in their system. This means that the report is not properly dealt with during the police investigation, when the Crown Prosecution Service decide whether to prosecute the person responsible, or at court if the case gets to court. DASL also raised that sometimes the police will decide to take ‘No Further Action’ in relation to the incident and that supporting charities are vitally needed to support the individual to understand this decision, and also to appeal the police’s decision if appropriate. DASL stressed that the individual should be supported to obtain legal advice and representation from a solicitor during the police investigation; currently this does not usually happen as many believe their interests are protected by the prosecution. Legal advice and representation are important to ensure that all evidence is included showing the incident is a disability hate crime, and ensure that the case is dealt with as a disability hate crime by all involved at all stages. You can find out more about Disability Advice Service Lambeth at http://www.disabilitylambeth.org.uk/.

 

In the fourth and final session, HEAR Charities Against Hate Crime Network spoke about their work and view of the overall approach to hate crime. HEAR stressed that the “fragmented approach to hate crime in London” is “sometimes [due to] being in different equality streams, but also because things are really fragmented by borough”; “some places are doing things well, others not so well”. HEAR explained that current hate crime law does not adequately protect many of the individuals affected by disability hate crime in reality, such as those with disfigurements and people with mental health support needs. HEAR urged that we should learn from the strategies and current law in relation to other equality streams, like race and faith, which can also be adopted in relation to disability hate crime, and that we should campaign for parity of the law on disability hate crime. You can find out more about the HEAR Charities Against Hate Crime Network at https://hearequality.org.uk/.

 

We also heard from the National Hate Crime Awareness Week and you can find out more about this at www.nationalhcaw.uk

 

Lessons to take

 

In the roundtable session that followed, it was suggested that all charities involved with disability hate crime, and hate crime generally, should aim to share best practice and resources, adopt a consistent approach, and talk to each other more. It was suggested that more should be done to work with the police, Crown Prosecution Service, other professionals involved, the public, and particular demographics/society groups like faith and prison communities, to increase awareness and encourage signposting to ensure more individuals feel able to report incidents. It was also suggested that more could be done to improve the ways individuals can report incidents.

 

Reflecting as the event drew to a close, the resounding conclusion was that there is a widespread lack of awareness of disability hate crime amongst professionals and the public, the current law on disability hate crime is unacceptably inadequate, and as a result vast numbers of incidents of disability hate crime go unreported and individuals unsupported. More must be done to campaign to change the law and increase awareness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PRACTICAL GUIDE

 

 

I have experienced a disability hate crime …

 

Who do I tell and how do I do it?

 

You can:

 

1.   Tell the police. You can call 101 or Crimestoppers confidentially on 0800 555111. Or you can go into a police station to talk to a police officer. Or you can report the incident online at http://report-it.org.uk/disability_hate_crime1. This is called making a ‘report’. If you feel threatened, always call 999.

2.   Download the Self Evident App for iPhones and Android phones. You can use the App to take photos of where the incident happened, and record a video of yourself explaining what happened. You can send this directly to the police through the App. You can find more information about the App at https://www.witnessconfident.org/self-evident-app.

3.   Tell someone at a ‘third party reporting centre’ in your area such as Lewisham Speak Up or Disability Advice Service Lambeth. They can give you a form for you to write down what happened which they can send to the police. Or they can report the incident to the police for you. They can support you during the police and court process, and help you to recover from the incident. You can find the closest reporting centre to you by visiting https://www.inclusionlondon.org.uk/directory/listing/ or contacting Inclusion London by phone on 020 7237 3181, email at info@inclusionlondon.org.uk or texting 0771 839 4687.

4.   Tell your support worker, social worker, day centre organiser, carer, doctor or nurse, friend, family member, or someone else you trust. You can show them this article so they know how to help you.

 

Try to remember details about the person or people responsible and tell the police. How many people were there? Were they girls or boys? How old do you think they were? What did they look like? What were they wearing? What did they say or do to you? How did you feel at the time? Try to do this quickly after the incident. This will help you remember details when you tell the police about the incident. You can also take photos of anything you think the police should see and show them. You could ask someone to help you do this.

 

What will happen once I tell the police?

 

The police will try to find the person or people who did it. They will also try to find anything to show or prove the incident happened. This could be photos or videos the person made during the incident. It could be money or other things the person took from you. It could also be what a doctor says about what happened to you. The police may ask you to write a ‘Victim Personal Statement’ to say how what happened made you feel. The police can help you write this.

 

Then the police will decide if there is enough to show or prove the incident happened. If there is, the police will ask the Crown Prosecution Service to tell the person to go to court and explain to the judge what they did. The judge may ask you to come to court to tell him what happened and how you felt too.

 

I’ve been told I have to go to court but I’m scared.

 

When you get to court, someone from the ‘Witness Care Unit’ will meet you. They will help you understand what is happening and sit with you. You can ask them any questions you like. You will sit with them in a quiet room away from the main entrance so you don’t see the person.

 

There are also special things the court can do to help you tell the judge what happened.

 

If you are too scared to go into the courtroom, you can speak to the judge in private alone. Or you can sit in another room with a friend and speak to the judge by a video screen. Or someone else can tell you the question and then tell the judge your answer for you.

 

If you are happy to go into the courtroom, you can have a screen in front of you when you speak to the judge so no one else in the courtroom can see you.

 

If you are worried about speaking to the judge, you can write down your answers instead of say them. There will be sign language interpreters or lipspeakers if you need them. Any papers will be given to you in Braille, large print, or audio if you need this.

 

Who can I talk to about it?

 

Before you go to court, you can speak to your local ‘third party reporting centre’. You can find the closest reporting centre to you by visiting https://www.inclusionlondon.org.uk/directory/listing/ or contacting Inclusion London by phone on 020 7237 3181, email at info@inclusionlondon.org.uk or texting 0771 839 4687.

 

When you get to court, you can talk to the person from the Witness Care Unit. They will help you understand what is happening and sit with you. You can ask them any questions you like. You can also speak to the Victim Liaison Unit at court.

 

A lawyer can help make sure your case is dealt with properly, as a disability hate crime. You can find a local solicitor by visiting http://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk/ or going to your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

 

I’m worried about going out now. What can I do?

 

It is understandable that you may feel nervous about going out after what happened. Tell the people you trust how you feel so that they can support you.

 

If a charity helps you, you can speak to them about it. Even if they can’t help you, they will be able to help you to speak to someone who can.

 

You can also speak to your local ‘third party reporting centre’. You can find the closest reporting centre to you by visiting https://www.inclusionlondon.org.uk/directory/listing/ or contacting Inclusion London by phone on 020 7237 3181, email at info@inclusionlondon.org.uk or texting 0771 839 4687.

 

If you have any trouble with doing this, you can show this article to a friend, family member or someone else you trust who can help you do this.

 

 

 

 

 

I know someone with a difficulty who has experienced a disability hate crime. What should I do?

 

How to support them to report the incident

 

Reporting the incident may be very difficult and scary for them, as it would be for everyone. They may not understand what will happen if they report the incident, or may be worried or unsure about how they do it. They may also be worried that the police will not believe what they say, or they may have little faith in the police. Consider the ways to report an incident listed above and see which would be easiest for them. If you think they are not able to report the incident themselves, you can report the incident to the police yourself.

 

Your local third party reporting centre are trained to help people to report disability hate crime incidents, and may be able to help with reporting and dealing with the incident. You can find the closest reporting centre to you by visiting https://www.inclusionlondon.org.uk/directory/listing/ or contacting Inclusion London by phone on 020 7237 3181, email at info@inclusionlondon.org.uk or texting 0771 839 4687.

 

How to ensure someone with a disability gets the best support during the police investigation and at court

 

The police investigation and court processes can be long and complicated, and difficult to understand for anyone. There are lots of measures available to support people with a disability understand and cope with this process and to help the person give evidence at court. More information can be found at http://www.cps.gov.uk/publications/docs/guide-to-support-for-disabled-victims-and-witnesses-of-crime.pdf

 

You may wish to help arrange legal advice and representation for the individual to make sure that their interests are represented properly and the case is dealt with as a disability hate crime. You can find a local solicitor by visiting http://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk/ or by visiting your local Citizens Advice Bureau who can help you find a solicitor.

 

Your local third party reporting centre will also be able to support the individual, and you, through the process. You can find the closest reporting centre to you by visiting https://www.inclusionlondon.org.uk/directory/listing/ or contacting Inclusion London by phone on 020 7237 3181, email at info@inclusionlondon.org.uk or texting 0771 839 4687.