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CPS Admits More Must Be Done To Help Victims Of Disability Hate Crime

March 22, 2010

The Crown Prospection Service should do more to help disabled victims of hate crime, an official has admitted.

Joanna Perry of the CPS’s equality and diversity unit said the prosecution service for England and Wales needed to “raise its game” over the issue.

She added that it must secure more successful prosecutions against those who target people with disabilities.

The CPS has issued new guidelines to the police which it says will help increase the number of prosecutions.

The police and prosecution service have had marked success in tackling race, religious and homophobic crime, but admit they have been less successful in combating disabled hate crime – where hostility towards a person is based on their disability.

Ms Perry’s comments follow the case of Fiona Pilkington, who killed herself and her disabled daughter Francecca Hardwick, 18, after years of abuse from a gang in Barwell, Leicestershire.

We have to make sure that we are working really hard to prevent these things from happening in the first place
Chief Constable Steve Otter
Association of Chief Police Officers

In March 2010 a man with learning difficulties, David Askew, collapsed and died after allegedly being harassed by youths in Greater Manchester.

In an interview with the BBC, Ms Perry said: “We think that the CPS could raise its game and that we could better identify where there is hostility against disabled people – in other words, where there’s evidence we can bring to the courts’ attention that shows that this crime, for example, was not just a robbery, it was a disability hate crime robbery.”

But Ian Kelcey, the chair of the Law Society criminal law committee, warned that many such cases would not make it into court

“A lot of these cases may fall at the first hurdle,” he said.

“When people with disabilities realise they’ve got to go to court, they’ve got to give evidence, they may feel somewhat disempowered, somewhat reluctant to go to court because of the issue of repercussions.”

Fiona Pilkington (l) and daughter Francecca Hardwick

Leicestershire police failed to treat the Pilkingtons’ case as hate crime

The police say disabled hate crime is often difficult to define it but that better training has raised awareness.

Chief Constable Steve Otter, from the Association of Chief Police Officers, said agencies needed to work together to tackle the problem.

“There’s no doubt we can do more. It’s very challenging – we have to make sure our officers are trained properly so they can identify disability and mental health issues.

“We have to make sure that we can get the evidence into court in an admissible way and we have to make sure that we are working really hard to prevent these things from happening in the first place.”

I think they mean the Crown Prosecution Service… or is there a Crown Prospection Service as well? Whatever the department, it’s good to see an authority admitting that improvements are needed. Here’s hoping they remember this moment when they need to make those improvements.

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