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Guest blog: time for 'disability hate crime' to be an official offence?

(40 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 22-Mar-13 13:54:51

A review published yesterday found that crimes against disabled people are going unrecorded, partly because 'disability hate crime' is not yet officially a standalone offence.

In a guest post, Mumsnet blogger Sarah Lowden (who blogs over at Lowden Clear) argues that, however regrettable it is that we should need such a category, 'disability hate crime' should now become an official offence.

Read her post, and tell us what you think; if you blog about this issue, don't forget to link your URL on the thread.

AmberLeaf Sat 23-Mar-13 10:49:09

Just read the blog.

I totally agree that there should be a stand alone crime of disability hate crime, there must be harsher deterrents for such crimes to reflect the serious problem with abuse and attacks on people with disabilities.

I started a thread in chat yesterday calling for people to contact the Attorney General and ask him to consider for review the disgustingly lenient sentence given to a man who horrifically killed a young man with autism.

My thread is here

I think the culture of name calling being deemed as just 'having a laugh' needs addressing from the bottom up, parents can do something about this.

The children of today who are allowed to poke fun at the 'weird kid' are the adults of the future who will attack and harrass people with disabilities.

So IMO there must be a two pronged approach, harsher sentences for disability hate crimes, but also to challenge attitudes that allow this sort of thing to happen.

Trills Sat 23-Mar-13 10:59:11

I'm not sure I understand. Surely anything that anyone might do that would be called "disability hate crime" is already a crime?

TheNebulousBoojum Sat 23-Mar-13 11:02:55

Completely agree, Amberleaf.
What harm does difference cause? Why target someone for who they are?
It should definitely be a crime, within my lifetime black people were treated appallingly because many didn't see them as entitled to equality, or even fully human. That is now unacceptable in law, even though racism is still an issue in our society.
Disability hate crime should be an offence equal to that of race hate crimes.

TheNebulousBoojum Sat 23-Mar-13 11:03:23

No Trills, it's horseplay or having a laugh.

tabulahrasa Sat 23-Mar-13 11:27:30

It already is a crime - there's legislation that covers it.

The issue is not that there needs to be more laws, but that the laws already there need to enforced properly - that hate crimes need to be recognised and taken seriously.

AmberLeaf Sat 23-Mar-13 11:29:22

Trills, google Judge Roger Keens statement on the conviction of Jordan Sheard for the manslaughter of Steven Simpson.

Steven was an 18 yr old autistic man who was humiliated, tortured then burned to death for being gay and disabled.

Judge Keen deemed the nights events as 'horseplay'

If there were a stand alone crime of disability hate crime, then he may have got more than just 3 yrs 6 months for burning a disabled young man to death.

If a Judge thinks that kind of abuse is merely 'horseplay' what hope is there?

Big changes are needed.

AmberLeaf Sat 23-Mar-13 11:36:43

From the linked blog;

As far as sentencing for the perpetrators goes, it is not particularly necessary to have a defined term in order for the sentence to reflect the unpleasant nature of the act. Judges in sentencing are required to take into account the circumstances surrounding an attack. A vicious assault on a vulnerable person must always disgust - *and so will always lead to harsher sentences being passed down from the bench*

Except it doesn't as shown in the case of Steven Simpson.

So maybe it is time for a law that ensures hate crimes are recognised and that it doesn't rely on any Judge recognising vulnerability, as they clearly do get it wrong sometimes.

That is why something more concrete is needed.

Trills Sat 23-Mar-13 11:39:05

But humiliating, torturing, and burning someone to death should be a crime whether you do it because they are disabled or because they are gay or for any other reason as well.

AmberLeaf Sat 23-Mar-13 11:45:56

Of course it should be.

But the Judge deemed it 'horseplay', you know just 'mucking around' and decided that it wasn't that bad, that it was just what drunk young men do

He completely ignored the fact that the victim was very vulnerable.

cornyvin Sat 23-Mar-13 11:50:14

Agree with amber - the torture and murder of Steven occurred because he was disabled. They took advantage of his disability to mock and abuse him.

Trills Sat 23-Mar-13 12:01:05

It happened because he was disabled, but if it had happened because he had ginger hair, or because he was really tall, or because he supported the wrong football team, it would still be a crime.

Making a rule that says "you shouldn't do these things to people ^because they are disabled^" seems odd to me, when the rule should be "you shouldn't do these things to people ^at all^".

AmberLeaf Sat 23-Mar-13 12:10:22

Why odd?

Do you not agree that some members of society are more vulnerable and should be protected?

Relying on the good nature of people to do that doesn't work.

Of course the rule should be 'dont do those things to anyone but people with disabilities are already at a higher risk of abuse and attacks, so there should be something done to stop that.

tabulahrasa Sat 23-Mar-13 12:16:17

The way I understand the hate crime laws (I have nothing to do with law just something I read up on btw) is that the original crime is a crime no matter what - if it was committed because the victim is or is believed to be a member of a certain group of society, which includes disabilities, religion, ethnicity or sexuality then it's a more severe crime than just the crime by itself.

So if you commit assault just because you're an assaulty kind of person then you're charged with assault, if you commit assault because the person you're assaulting is disabled, gay, a Muslim or black then it's assault and a hate crime.

The problem seems to be that when people are charged/processed/convicted and it was clealy motivated by a disability it vey often isn't taken into account in the way it should be - as in Steven Simpson's case.

Trills Sat 23-Mar-13 12:19:29

I think everyone should be protected.

Trills Sat 23-Mar-13 12:20:41

tabulahrasa that makes a bit more sense.

Trills Sat 23-Mar-13 12:25:36

The trouble with having a list of "a crime is extra bad if you do it for these reasons" is that some people (like the judge in question, apparently) will take it to mean that if something is not on the list then it somehow makes the crime less serious. How do we deal with that?

AmberLeaf Sat 23-Mar-13 12:52:15

I don't understand your last post Trills.

What was not on the list?

The Judge in the case of Steven Simpson didn't take things into account that were there for all to see.

There are laws in place to protect everybody

There should be laws in place that take into account the fact that some members of society are attacked/abused more than others due to their vulnerabilities

There needs to be laws to protect those that have no voice and can't stand up for themselves.

TheNebulousBoojum Sat 23-Mar-13 13:10:15

This is just a possible scenario, a guess if you like, based on my experiences.

The guests were taunting and mocking Steven, he was laughing probably because he thought he was being included and they liked him. His inability to understand the situation meant that he didn't realise when things got out of hand. Having someone vulnerable to 'play' with often incites bullies to go further, they wrote homophobic messages on his body, they baited him for entertainment and then they sprayed flammable liquid directly on him, and then Sheard set fire to him and so the situation ended in horrific burns and death.
It's not the first time something like this has happened, Brent Martin died for similar reasons. August 23, 2007 5 Years ago.

After the sentencing
' Macrae, editor of Disability Now magazine, published by the disability charity Scope, said: "We are pleased that William Hughes, Marcus Miller and Stephen Bonallie have received such long sentences.

"But we are disappointed that the judge did not mention the fact that Mr Martin was clearly targeted because he was disabled and that his horrific murder was aggravated by hatred towards his impairment.

"Murders motivated by homophobia and racism often attract far stiffer sentences. All such horrific crimes must be treated equally by the criminal justice system."

cornyvin Sat 23-Mar-13 13:11:20

it wouldn't have happened if he 'had ginger hair, or because he was really tall, or because he supported the wrong football team' because those things would not have made him vulnerable.

TheNebulousBoojum Sat 23-Mar-13 13:11:53

The killers were 16, 17 and 21. They did it for entertainment.

Trills Sat 23-Mar-13 14:08:05

cornyvin the list of things that count as "hate crimes" are not all things that would make you more vulnerable. They are characteristics that people might choose to pick on you for.

Trills Sat 23-Mar-13 14:11:00

Having read some more I still don't feel that we necessarily need a new law to say that "disability hate crime" is a special thing.

I think we need better training of judges and police officers and everyone else involved in the system to recognise and correctly deal with "hate crime" in general, no matter what the motivation is.

TheNebulousBoojum Sat 23-Mar-13 14:21:31

But you need the detail and the distinctions to make an unbreakable case, to collect specific evidence. Otherwise you might just as well say 'Everyone be nice to each other and if you aren't, we'll get cross'
This wasn't categorised as a hate crime, the judge said it was horseplay that got out of hand. You know, like an episode of Jackass. Equal responsibility for all there, victim included.
It should have been classed as a hate crime.

AmberLeaf Sat 23-Mar-13 14:35:28

the list of things that count as "hate crimes" are not all things that would make you more vulnerable. They are characteristics that people might choose to pick on you for

They may make you more vulnerable to attack though, things like your race or sexuality due to others prejudices.

The thing with victims of disabled hate crime, is they are vulnerable to attack because of their disability, but they are in many cases vulnerable anyway because of their disability- like Steven Simpson was. he would have been vulnerable even in every day life, never mind in a situation where some bastard was abusing him.

I don't really understand opposition to this really, clearly change is needed.

If what stands currently was enough, people like Fiona Pilkington wouldn't have been driven to suicide, her perpetrators would have been charged and she would have been protected.

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