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Hate Crime

Volume 542: debated on Monday 19 March 2012

Last Wednesday, the Minister for Equalities launched “Challenge it, report it, stop it”, the Government’s new action plan for tackling hate crime. It sets out what we will do at the national level to help victims and professionals to challenge the attitudes that drive hate crime; give more victims the confidence to come forward; and make sure that the criminal justice system responds effectively when they do.

I am very concerned by recent reports that indicate that there has been a rise in abuse towards disabled people. Will the Minister confirm what the facts are behind the anecdotes, and what specific actions the Government are taking to address any rise in hate crimes towards disabled people?

I regret to say that my hon. Friend is correct. At a time when the reporting of other kinds of hate crime has declined, the latest figures, which are for 2010, show that the number of hate crimes against disabled people went up from 1,294 to 1,569. He is therefore addressing the right problem. It is the “report it” part of the action plan that I would point to, because more disabled people are reporting hate crimes to the police. We know that under-reporting is a huge problem, and one of the key themes of the action plan is to encourage more victims to come forward. We are doing that by allowing new ways of reporting such crimes, such as online and through third parties.

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer and to the Government for their attention to hate crime. He will be aware that learning-disabled people are often particularly reluctant to report such crimes because they feel that they will not be believed. What steps are the Government taking to encourage all professionals to take all accusations of hate crime from such victims seriously?

The hon. Lady makes a very good point. That is why, as part of the action plan that the Minister for Equalities announced recently, the Home Office is funding organisations that support the victims of disability hate crime to find a way to make it easier for those who are particularly reluctant to report it to come forward.