Fighting disability hate crime is the minimum the government should be doing

Shadow equalities minister Kate Green writes about her success in getting the government to accept and amendment which will equalise tariffs for disability hate crime.

Kate Green MP (Labour, Stretford and Urmston) is the shadow minister for women and equalities

There hasn’t been much to celebrate about the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders bill, which received its third reading in the Commons this week.

But I was both delighted and surprised when, in the course of Tuesday’s debate, Ken Clarke responded to my amendment to recognise the seriousness of disability hate crime by agreeing to increase the minimum tariff for murder where the victim’s disability has been a motivating or aggravating factor.

I’m very grateful to a number of organisations and individuals who first brought the issue to my attention.

Writer and journalist Katharine Quarmby, representatives of the Disability Hate Crime Network and RADAR, and, most importantly, Christine Oliver, sister of Keith Philpott, a learning disabled victim who was tortured and murdered by a group of people whom he’d got to know socially, all spent time taking me through the compelling need for a change in the law.

My amendment (which had support from MPs right across the House) would have aligned the tariff in cases where disability is an issue with the treatment of race, religion and sexuality. On Tuesday, Clarke promised the government would bring forward its own amendment when the bill reaches the House of Lords.

This is very welcome news, and I look forward to seeing the Lord Chancellor’s proposal.

There’s an opportunity for the government to be much bolder than I was able to be with my amendment. Disability hate crime covers a much wider spectrum of offences than simply murder, so the government must take the opportunity to develop a much fuller strategic response to this shameful – and all too often hidden – issue.

Last month the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published “Hidden in plain sight”, a report of its inquiry into disability-related harassment. That report reveals that nearly 2 million disabled people were victims of crime in 2009/10.

Although it’s not known how many were victims of harassment, we do know disabled people are more likely to be victims of crime than the non-disabled, and there’s evidence that they’re also more at risk of experiencing anti-social behaviour.

Cases that come to court, especially murder cases, are only the tip of a very sizeable iceberg. The underlying institutional and societal problems revealed by the report show a pattern of failure to address discrimination against disabled people. There is currently no holistic approach to dealing with attacks and harassment of disabled people. Data is patchy, professionals’ responses vary, and awareness is often low.

The EHRC therefore makes a number of suggestions, both to improve practice, and to monitor much more accurately the extent of harassment of disabled people.

Its proposals would improve access to the criminal justice system for disabled people and their families. Professional behaviours and attitudes that mean the issue goes unrecognised, or that discourage victims from reporting (often they feel they will not be believed), systemic barriers to sharing information, a lack of understanding of the drivers of perpetrators’ behaviour: All of this needs to change.

Amending the sentencing provisions in relation to murder would be important, but it’s only the first step in ensuring people never have to suffer abuse or harassment because of their disability.

There is a wider context however; the Conservative-led reforms to our welfare system which demonise those unable to work, and broader underlying attitudes to disabled people, which, as research from the Glasgow Media Group has very recently shown, have become increasingly hostile.

Disabled people have gone from being seen as “deserving” to “undeserving”, too often portrayed as workshy scroungers, not least by Coalition Ministers keen to “talk tough on welfare” and demonise those in receipt of social security benefits.

The issue shouldn’t be about which disabled people are deserving, but of how we can successfully provide autonomy, equality and rights. Disabled people should not be less protected than those without disabilities. That means there’s an obligation on society to address the structural disadvantage that they face at every level.

The real importance of Clarke’s concession will therefore be if it marks a sea-change in wider institutional attitudes and behaviours, if it kick starts government action to reverse damaging legislation and begin to better support and protect disabled people, and if that in turns helps transform public attitudes too.

Disabled people should insist they are at the heart of driving such change, and as shadow minister for women and equalities I will make sure the Labour Party is behind them every step of the way.

See also:

The missing millions in the legal aid cutsAlex Hern, November 2nd 2011

Compensation changes will leave Paralympic heroes without vital supportJonny Mulligan, September 9th 2011

NHS report urges government to stop legal aid cutsJonny Mulligan, July 12th 2011

Fat cats will continue to milk the legal aid budget – while the vulnerable sufferJonny Mulligan, June 22nd 2011

Two women a week die from domestic violence; legal aid cuts will see moreJonny Mulligan, June 16th 2011

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48 Responses to “Fighting disability hate crime is the minimum the government should be doing”

  1. John Edginton

    Fighting disability hate crime is the *minimum* the government should be doing, writes @KateGreenMP: http://t.co/eWBrlo4M

  2. #pressreform

    Fighting disability hate crime is the *minimum* the government should be doing, writes @KateGreenMP: http://t.co/eWBrlo4M

  3. LJH

    Fighting disability hate crime is the *minimum* the government should be doing, writes @KateGreenMP: http://t.co/eWBrlo4M

  4. Sue Marsh

    RT @leftfootfwd: Fighting disability hate crime is the minimum the government should be doing http://t.co/cCJbzMx2 <<Brilliant @KateGreenMP

  5. Well Fair System?

    RT @leftfootfwd: Fighting disability hate crime is the minimum the government should be doing http://t.co/cCJbzMx2 <<Brilliant @KateGreenMP

  6. Imogen May

    RT @leftfootfwd: Fighting disability hate crime is the minimum the government should be doing http://t.co/cCJbzMx2 <<Brilliant @KateGreenMP

  7. Raj P

    Fighting disability hate crime is the *minimum* the government should be doing, writes @KateGreenMP: http://t.co/eWBrlo4M

  8. The F-Word

    RT @leftfootfwd: Fighting disability hate crime is the *minimum* the government should be doing, writes @KateGreenMP: http://t.co/mHYAJQvI

  9. Philippa

    RT @leftfootfwd: Fighting disability hate crime is the *minimum* the government should be doing, writes @KateGreenMP: http://t.co/8BFSYXPG

  10. Rajinder Bhuhi

    Fighting disability hate crime is the *minimum* the government should be doing, writes @KateGreenMP: http://t.co/eWBrlo4M

  11. Sara Sara

    RT @leftfootfwd: Fighting disability hate crime is the *minimum* the government should be doing, writes @KateGreenMP: http://t.co/mHYAJQvI

  12. Margo Milne

    RT @leftfootfwd: Fighting disability hate crime is the *minimum* the government should be doing, writes @KateGreenMP: http://t.co/8BFSYXPG

  13. Samantha Johnston

    Fighting disability hate crime is the *minimum* the government should be doing, writes @KateGreenMP: http://t.co/eWBrlo4M

  14. Mandy

    RT @leftfootfwd: Fighting disability hate crime is the minimum the government should be doing http://t.co/cCJbzMx2 <<Brilliant @KateGreenMP

  15. Noxi

    RT @leftfootfwd: Fighting disability hate crime is the *minimum* the government should be doing, writes @KateGreenMP: http://t.co/UkpD4LAF

  16. big pawed bear

    RT @leftfootfwd: Fighting disability hate crime is the *minimum* the government should be doing, writes @KateGreenMP: http://t.co/8BFSYXPG

  17. Political Planet

    Fighting disability hate crime is the minimum the government should be doing: Shadow equalities minister Kate Gr… http://t.co/hRQ2mVER

  18. Rob the crip

    The sad fact is kicking the shit out of people is far better then calling them work shy scroungers words New labour loved to use, also stopping benefits of people in a wheelchair because a wheelchair is the same as legs try it. I think getting your own party in line before moaning about the Tories.

  19. hindle-a

    Dear Kate Green,in that case would you endeavour to have a word with your colleagues-the “Something for something” trope is clearly designed to further add to the hostility for political gain.

  20. Lisa

    Actually I would say that the *minimum* they could do is to stop *encouraging* disablist hate crime with the scrounger rhetoric and press releases containing massaged statistics.

    I would absolutely love to see perpetrators of disablist hate treated appropriately. But I would rank this amendment as second from minimum; with ceasing to promote at minimum.

  21. Fighting disability hate crime is the minimum the government should be doing | Left Foot Forward « Natalie Meadows' Blog

    […] Fighting disability hate crime is the minimum the government should be doing | Left Foot Forward. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  22. Chris Salter

    Fighting disability hate crime is the minimum the government should be doing | Left Foot Forward http://t.co/rc1Os7ql #ppnews

  23. JayDyok

    'The issue shouldn’t be which disabled people are deserving, but of how we can provide autonomy, equality and rights'. http://t.co/yzKOeejN

  24. TheCreativeCrip

    Fighting disability hate crime is the minimum the government should be doing | Left Foot Forward http://t.co/rc1Os7ql #ppnews

  25. 2wolves

    RT @leftfootfwd: Fighting disability hate crime is the minimum the government should be doing http://t.co/cCJbzMx2 <<Brilliant @KateGreenMP

  26. Yvonne Lee

    Fighting disability hate crime is the *minimum* the government should be doing, writes @KateGreenMP: http://t.co/eWBrlo4M

  27. Meena Lacey

    Fighting disability hate crime is the *minimum* the government should be doing, writes @KateGreenMP: http://t.co/eWBrlo4M

  28. ThirdForce Learning

    RT @leftfootfwd: Fighting disability hate crime is the *minimum* the government should be doing, writes @KateGreenMP: http://t.co/AqP6UK8o

  29. Janet Graham

    RT @leftfootfwd: Fighting disability hate crime is the minimum the government should be doing http://t.co/cCJbzMx2 <<Brilliant @KateGreenMP

  30. Elaine Newman

    Fighting disability #hatecrime is the minimum the government should be doing http://t.co/ezdtEoir #disabilities #diversity #equality #UK

  31. Rob the crip

    Blair work shy, Milibands I know a man who was fit to work asked what was wrong with him he stated I do not know but he looked fit.

    Ah well just like Labour to attack people when your as bad as them

  32. Rob the crip

    I was just looking at a report Ms Green did on progress in which she states we did not go far enough or fast enough on welfare, then she spouts the Blair and Brown line on Immigration, then spouts we made a mistake.Then she says the only way out of poverty is work, but of course it depends on what the job are, and if a disabled person can do them, or are you talking about the rubbish jobs found for me , sitting in a room with a computer which was not connected up, for six weeks until I left from boredom, they actually told me to thank my lucky stars the company was willing to pay me a wage, for doing nothing. I then moved to another Job in which I had to say welcome to this shop, when I did not smile, I was told if I could not smile I was no good to the company, every penny counts slap slap on the back pocket.

    This MP is another of the many career Politicians that are rife within all parties these days.

    They pollute politics.

  33. Liza Harding

    Fighting disability hate crime is the *minimum* the government should be doing, writes @KateGreenMP: http://t.co/eWBrlo4M

  34. richardbrennan

    Pls read my article for @leftfootfwd:Fighting disability hate crime is min the govt should be doing' http://t.co/TP07GtRE

  35. Disabled Living Fdn

    Fighting disability hate crime is the minimum the government should be doing: http://t.co/bkFTX51f via @KateGreenMP & @leftfootfwd

  36. Thomas Hemingford

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  40. Katy Etherington

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  41. Martha Trust

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  42. SSDAdvocate

    The disability benefits that people who are unable to work receive are essential to not only their well-being, but their family depends on these payments as well. It is unfortunate that many of those people with disabling conditions have to deal with the stigma that they are just lazy and should get out there and work for a living. If you have a disabling condition and would like to be connected with a specialized social security attorney in your area, check out Social Security Disability Help today.

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