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Disability hate crimes

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This page mostly does not apply outside England and Wales.
Last updated 22nd February, 2024 (part update 1st April, 2024).

These are criminal offences dealt with by the police. They are separate from the Equality Act.

For harassment under the Equality Act 2010, see Harassment.

Hate crimes

Hostility related to disability is an aggravating factor when sentencing a defendant for a criminal offence in England and Wales: s.66 Sentencing Act 2020. “Disability” is wider than the Equality Act definition. It means any physical or mental impairment, so it should include any stammer (probably as a “physical” impairment).

S.66 does not itself create a criminal offence. There needs to be some criminal offence the defendant has committed, for example harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (which must involve conduct on at least two occasions), assault, or criminal damage. For examples of other criminal offences which may be aggravated by disability-related hostility, see Verbal abuse and harassment in public (cps.gov.uk) and Detailed information on legislation related to intimidation offences (local.gov.uk).

Hate crimes are separate from the Equality Act. So they are not limited to acts of employers or service providers etc to which the Equality Act applies.

Hate incidents

A hate incident is not necessarily a crime. Scope (the disability equality charity) says the police have a duty to investigate hate incidents, and may decide that a crime has taken place. It says keep a record of incidents, to help police build up evidence. Scope says further that it can be difficult to tell the difference between a hate incident and a hate crime. It suggests: “Even if you are not sure, report the incident to someone you trust like a social worker who can help you speak with the police.” See Recognising and reporting disability hate crime (scope.org.uk), which applies to England and Wales.

The police may not necessarily be helpful though:

A person running to become a Liberal Democrat MP, stepped down following a series of hateful comments and mockery aimed at his stammer.

He says the final straw was when another politician abused his stammer in a public street not far from his own home. This incident was recorded as a disability-related hate incident by the police, who he nonetheless had to beg through tears even to agree to interview the sitting councillor who had witnessed the incident. He says the police decided not to even interview the perpetrator, sending merely a warning letter.


Further links


20th anniversary of stammeringlaw, 1999-2019