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Disability Hate Crimes

Volume 551: debated on Tuesday 16 October 2012

2. What recent discussions he has had with the Director of Public Prosecutions on the prosecution of disability hate crimes by the Crown Prosecution Service. (122176)

The whole country marvelled this summer at the achievements of the Paralympians, which provided a huge opportunity for changing attitudes towards disability. The CPS takes disability hate crime very seriously and the DPP has made his own commitment very clear. I have not had the opportunity to discuss the matter with him yet, but I can assure her that the CPS prosecutes these cases whenever it can.

I start by welcoming the Solicitor-General to his new position.

In 2011, the number of disability hate crimes rose by one third to 2,000, but only 523 convictions were upheld. When he has such conversations, will he talk through how that conviction rate might be increased?

The hon. Lady has spent much time and effort campaigning for disability rights, including within the criminal justice system, and I respect the point she makes. Nevertheless, it is important to recognise that progress has been made: the number of convictions has risen steadily from 141—I believe—in 2007-08 to the 480 concluded in the past year. However, yes, more progress needs to be made, and the DPP has explained in the past that he thinks a lot more needs to be done.

According to the CPS website, there is no legal definition of a disability hate crime. Will the Solicitor-General look into this matter and see whether it can be reviewed?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. It is important to monitor and identify crimes, particularly violent and public order crimes involving an element of disability hate. The CPS has issued new guidance on this matter to its prosecutors, who of course have the right in appropriate cases to ask, under section 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, for an uplift in the sentence. That needs to be done in appropriate cases.