Charities say that their research will ‘scarcely scratch the surface’ of the issue due to many victims’ reluctance to report incidentsDaniel Gayne

Disability hate crimes are on the rise across Cambridgeshire, according to research by disability charities Leonard Cheshire and United Response.

The figures, compiled to coincide with Hate Crime Awareness Week (9th-16th October), reveal that 80 hate crimes towards disabled people were reported in Cambridgeshire in 2020/21 — up from 75 in 2019/20. Of these 80, 50 were violent crimes, marking a significant increase from the 33 reported last year.

In addition to the rise in face-to-face hate crime in the county, online hate crimes towards disabled people have tripled from 3 in 2019/20 to 9 in 2020/21.

Despite this rise in reporting of instances of disability hate crime, only three reports in the region resulted in charges or referrals to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the same number as last year.

The data was obtained by Leonard Cheshire and United Response via Freedom of Information requests sent to Cambridgeshire Constabulary, which was one of 39 police services in England and Wales to provide information for their investigation.

Commenting on the findings of their research, Leonard Cheshire and United Response said: “Many disabled people we spoke to said they wouldn’t report their hate crime to the police, so our findings are likely to scarcely scratch the surface of the true scale of these horrific incidents.

“The stories we’ve heard suggest many police officers do not have a good understanding of disability. So we’re calling for a specialist disability liaison officer in every police force. We want the government to make disability hate crimes easier to report too.”

The charities also stress the long term impacts of hate crimes on victims, such as a fear to leave their own home. They added that “the government’s National Disability Strategy promised a disability awareness raising campaign. That should be an opportunity to educate everyone, including young people and those in school, about disability hate crimes.”

When asked about what needs to be done to ensure disabled people feel more confident in reporting incidents of hate crime, a spokesperson for Cambridgeshire Constabulary told Varsity: “Awareness of disabilities and communication with disabled people is one of the focuses of the Action Against Hate coordinator for the force. They seek to educate our officers and staff, and bridge gaps between disabled people and the police.

“Initiatives such as PLOD (Police Link Officers for Deaf people) & Deaf Comms champions, and the Pegasus scheme are examples of work currently being undertaken.”


Mountain View

Cambridge alumnus highlights growing trend of anti-Asian hate crimes

The spokesperson asserted: “Cambridgeshire Constabulary are working hard to tackle hate crime, we understand the effects it can have on victims, their families and the wider community.

“We want our communities to have the confidence to report such incidents and be reassured that we will take any allegation seriously and follow up all lines of enquiry.”

Cambridgeshire Constabulary also helped to host the ‘Celebrating Us’ music and poetry event at Peterborough Cathedral on Tuesday evening (12/10), during which the force’s Action Against Hate coordinator spoke about the work they were doing to reach out to disabled people in the region.

The Cambridgeshire data contributes to an overall increasing trend in disability hate crime across England and Wales: 9,252 crimes were reported across all participating regions this year, representing a small increase from 9,188 in 2019/20, with online crime in particular rising by more than 50%. Only 1% of these incidents resulted in CPS referral or charges.