Weekly Poll – Hate Crime Stats

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue.  For the week beginning 14 June 2021, we asked a question about members’ confidence to report a disability hate crime incident.

Results

Question 1. Would you feel confident to report an incident of disability hate crime? 

  • YES – 48% (44 respondent)
  • NO – 52% (48 respondents)

Comments

Results of this week’s poll show that there is almost an even split between those who would feel confident reporting hate crime, and those who would not.  We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.

Experience of hate crime

Respondents cited the incidents of hate crime that they had encountered.  These included examples of verbal and physical abuse.  Recently there have been incidents of hate crime linked to face-covering exemptions where disabled people are exempt from wearing a mask and this has led to abuse from members of the public.  The examples below show the impact that these incidents can have on disabled people.

“I received verbal abuse from a person outside a local shop because I was unable to wear a mask.  I report it to the police as advised and was visited 48hours later.  They did establish from CCTV who the man was, and I received a call to say he was cautioned.  For a while after the incident, I did not want or feel confident to go out.”

“I’m exempt from wearing a face covering. I was abused by passengers and a (bus) driver.  Fortunately, with the help of Disability Equality Scotland, I got an exempt card to wear.” 

Experience of reporting a hate crime

Respondents gave feedback on their experiences of reporting a hate crime.  These views were mixed, with only a few people stating that they were happy with the support and service they received from Police Scotland.

“I have been on the receiving end of a hate crime and reported it.  The police were excellent; really supportive and helpful.”

However, most of the feedback in this poll indicated that respondents felt the Police had not supported them in an appropriate way when reporting hate crime.  Respondents perceived that they were not taken seriously by Police staff and their claims dismissed. 

“I have reported disability hate crime on numerous occasions to Police Scotland. We have experienced hostility by argumentative staff on 101 and when the police attend or phone in constructively trying to coerce us out of believing it is indeed disability hate.”

“I have in the past (reported hate crime) and Police Scotland treated it with minimal respect, made me feel I was being troublesome and refused to take further record, or comment when asked to do so.”

“Police Scotland do as little as possible to help people who report such crimes.”

“I have reported a hate crime incident to Police.  The way I was verbally abused made me feel very threatened, so I reported the incident when the abuser was still present.  However, I was told by the police officer this was not a hate crime and thus they would not deal with it.”

Feel let down by the system

There were some examples where disabled people had reported incidents of hate crime and these were taken to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.  However, none of these examples led to a satisfactory result for the disabled person, who felt let down by the system.  It can be a difficult and stressful time for disabled people to report an incident and to take it to the courts, only to feel let down with an unsatisfactory outcome.

“I did report it and had a witness and the police took it seriously, however the Fiscal’s office failed to call witnesses so it ended up my word against theirs and they got off as my statement couldn’t be corroborated.”

“I previously reported disability hate crime and the COPFS messed it up at court; lost statements and didn’t approach witnesses so the person was found not guilty at court and I had weeks of stress and threats.”

Perceived concerns not taken seriously

For many disabled people there were genuine concerns that their disabilities would not be accounted for when making reports of hate crime.  For example, those with hidden disabilities felt that they may not be taken seriously as their disability was not obvious.

“There is too much public ignorance about disability and this doesn’t exclude the police.  I am autistic and have no confidence that my behaviour and the things I remember and don’t remembers about my encounters would be appropriately acknowledged.”

“My disability isn’t always obvious, so I don’t feel I’d be taken seriously if I were to report incidents to the police.”

While others had made reports of hate crime, but because of the nature of their disability were unable to provide corroborating evidence, and therefore was not accepted.

“We have had to live with anti-social behaviour issues and after we reported this, we have been directly targeted….property vandalised, threatening notes through the door and verbal abuse when walking outdoors. All issues were reported to the police but because we could not see those responsible due to being visually impaired, they could not follow this up as a hate crime. We could identify those responsible by voice, but this is not acceptable proof under Scottish law.”

Concern about repercussions

One of the key reasons why disabled people were not keen to report incidents of hate crime was the perceived fear of repercussions, where the perpetrator discovers a report against them has been made and retaliates against the disabled person.  Many disabled people do know the perpetrators of hate crimes against them, and this can lead to increased fears of repercussions.

“I would be frightened that nothing would be done and there could be reoccurrences.”

“I am in a wheelchair and stand out in a small community. I would worry that me reporting anything would mean that the perpetrator would be looking for retribution and it could easily link back to me as a hate crime against someone disabled is probably rare in this area.”

“I would be afraid of reprisals.”

“I wouldn’t feel safe. What if the people I was making the complaint heard about it and made things even worse? What if I wasn’t taken seriously?” 

‘No point’ in reporting

For many disabled people, there is a perception that reporting an incident of disability hate crime would not result in a positive outcome.  Some people felt that without concrete evidence or corroborating witnesses, any claims of disability hate crime would be unfounded.

“I wouldn’t feel that reporting it would be of any use.  On some incidents, it’s a case of ‘they said, and they said’ so unless you have actual proof, I don’t think it would be any good to report it.”

Others felt that the likelihood to make a report was dependent on the severity of the crime.  For example, it would be more likely that a physical attack would lead to a report, moreso than any verbal abuse; presumably because disabled people experience verbal abuse on a much more regular basis.

“It would depend on just how serious the crime was. I’d not report anything verbal but possibly a physical attack I might.”

Third Party Hate Crime Reporting Centres

Reports of hate crime can be made in many different ways.  For example, some third sector organisations, including Disability Equality Scotland operate as third-party hate crime reporting centres, able to make reports of hate crime on behalf of disabled people.  Some people had more positive experiences than others, with feedback suggesting that, specifically during the pandemic, these were not open nor accessible.

“Being able to report via my local centre for inclusive living is reassuring but I still wouldn’t feel confident to do so per se. I don’t much trust the system to appropriately deal with hate crime in general.”

“Another useless part of reporting is third party reporting centres. They are not quick to deal with, nor have they been open and accessible in the pandemic, so they are simply not fit for purpose.” 

One of the key issues is that disabled people are looking for ongoing support to help them from the point of making a report, all the way through the system, including perhaps preparing for a court date.   

“It’s not taken seriously. Once you report it, you are left with no ongoing support.”

Importance of reporting hate crime

Some respondents to the poll suggested that they would report hate crime without hesitation.  There was a strong sense of moral obligation to ensure that incidents do not go unchallenged, and that by encouraging disabled people to make reports, more perpetrators will be deterred.

“I would definitely feel confident in reporting as it’s becoming more and more and this needs stopped.”

“I would not be confident but would want to report it so it didn’t happen to others.”

“I haven’t experienced it personally, but I have witnessed it and I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t do anything about it other than comforting the person afterwards.  Now that I am older, I wouldn’t hesitate to report it.”

“I haven’t experienced the undoubted trauma of this but would have no hesitation in reporting a situation which I feel crosses into this form of discrimination.”

Disability Equality Scotland hosts the Disability Safety Hub (www.disabiilitysafety.scot) which is a website dedicated to supporting disabled people to make reports of hate crime.  It contains information and advice on how to do this.  Also on our Accessible Travel Hub, we have launched the national Hate Crime Charter for use on public transport (www.accessibletravel.scot) where we have information about how the Charter acts as a zero-tolerance approach to hate crime on the public transport network. 

Conclusions

Feedback suggests that disabled people deal with incidents of hate crime on a regular basis.  This could be low level verbal abuse, but that which could escalate to persistent and tortuous examples of hate crime.  Disability Equality Scotland want to ensure that all disabled people feel comfortable, safe and confident to make reports of hate crime.  Information presented on our Hubs encourages people to make reports, but this also relies on other agencies taking this information and acting upon it in the most appropriate way, ensuring disabled people are consulted and informed at each stage of the process; and if a case will not proceed, information should be given as to why.

Disability Equality Scotland will continue to promote the need to make reports of hate crime and will support its members to make these reports as far as possible.