Police are failing disabled people by not treating hate crimes against them as seriously as racism or homophobia, a report by a disabled charity says.
Mencap found incidents against disabled people were sometimes not considered hate crimes and downgraded to anti-social behaviour offences, “putting vulnerable families at risk of years of harassment and anti-social behaviour”.
The report concluded that disability hate crimes were massively under-reported, with one police participant admitting it was “often the poor relative of racist hate crime”. Mencap concluded police lacked “understanding of disability hate crime or a strategy in place to tackle it”.
The report comes after the death of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter Francecca Hardwick. Ms Pilkington reported problems to police more than 33 times in seven years but killed herself and her disabled daughter due to a lack of action.
An Independent Police Complaints Commission’s (IPCC) report found police had a number of “missed opportunities”, including not identifying the Pilkingtons as a vulnerable family.
Mencap hopes the case will be a catalyst for change. The charity’s chief executive, Mark Goldring, said: “The tragic deaths of Fiona Pilkington and Francecca Hardwick are just two examples of where low-level harassment ignored that was by police was allowed to escalate into sustained abuse with fatal consequences. Too often they accept abuse as a part of their daily life.”
The report was conducted with 14 police forces in England and included a group of people with a learning disability.