Disabled hate crimes soar to record highs as violence rockets and prosecutions plummet

Hate crimes against disabled people have soared 25% to record highs, figures show.

More than half of the 11,224 offences reported to police in the last year involved violence, according to research by disability charities.

Just 1.1% were referred to the Crown Prosecution Service or resulted in criminal charges, the investigation found.

Charities Leonard Cheshire and United Response obtained figures from 36 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales.

Of the crimes reported in the year to March 2022 – of which 5,910 involved an element of violence – only 129 resulted in a charge or summons, figures showed.

Campaigners said the rise in cases could be down to disabled people feeling more confident in reporting offences, or forces recognising more crimes as hate crimes.

But investigations often concluded due to “evidential difficulties” and victims withdrawing support for the inquiry – even when a named suspect had been identified, they added.

In a joint statement, Leonard Cheshire and United Response said: “Record levels of reports coupled with a distinct lack of justice paint a worrying picture that these crimes are not being taken seriously enough.”

One victim, Chloe Tear, was in the sixth form when she suffered disability hate crime. The content designer, now 24, remembers hearing the words “Get the girl in the wheelchair” before a group of teenagers threw eggs at her as she waited at a bus stop in Leeds in October 2015.

Chloe, who has cerebral palsy, said: “It was something that really affected me.”

She says her local police force asked for an impact statement but, shocked, she wasn’t ready to give one.

She added: “I’d just completely locked it away.”

Another woman, Melissa from Lancaster, had a man seize control of her wheelchair for a mile before releasing her but she was not sure if that qualified as a hate crime.

Rachel, a disability hate crime campaigner who experienced abuse while on public transport, added: “If the reporting process was demystified and support more visible, I believe more people would come forward.”

A National Police Chiefs’ Council spokesman said: “We will always pursue action against perpetrators where there is evidence to do so.”