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Hate Crimes against Disabled People

Volume 602: debated on Thursday 26 November 2015

2. What steps the Crown Prosecution Service is taking to improve the conviction rate for hate crimes against disabled people. (902343)

The Crown Prosecution Service recently revised its disability hate crime legal guidance for prosecutors. As part of its ongoing commitment to achieving meaningful improvement in disability hate crime prosecutions, it has mandated that disability hate crime training for all prosecutors should be completed by the end of the year.

What contacts have been made between disability interest groups and governmental agencies to foster a better approach to the addressing of hate crime?

I am happy to tell my hon. Friend that, along with my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Disabled People and the Minister for Preventing Abuse and Exploitation, I recently set up and took part in a ministerial round table with Government agencies and the third sector to deal with precisely that issue. We gave particular attention to issues such as victim support, the quality of reporting, and confidence among members of the disability community about the way in which the criminal justice system treats them.

In October, the Police Service of Northern Ireland launched an online campaign after 44 disability hate crimes were recorded over a six-month period. Two years ago, the PSNI contacted the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability—of which the Solicitor General will know—which has set up an advocacy scheme to help disabled people to gain access to the criminal justice system. Does the Solicitor General feel that he should consider similar action?

I commend the work of Leonard Cheshire Disability. In 2012, 65,000 cases involving a disability hate element in England and Wales were recorded in the national crime survey, but there is a big gap between that figure and the number of prosecutions, and I want that to change.

I may be bending the supplementary matter a little, Mr Speaker, but what steps is the Crown Prosecution Service taking to ensure the reliability of evidence relating to crimes allegedly committed 30 to 40 years ago?

No, that is not a stretching of the question; it is a departure from it. Ingenious, but flawed on this occasion.

The sad reality is that hate crime is a growing problem. A young Muslim woman, Ruhi Rehman, was racially abused when travelling on the metro in my home town of Newcastle on Saturday. Thankfully, her attacker was chased off by outraged passengers, but not everyone is fortunate enough to have “Geordie angels”. More than 27% of prosecutions for hate crimes are currently failing because of victim issues, a significant rise since 2010. Do the Government share my concern that victims are being let down, and that serious crimes are going unpunished as a result?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising that case. When I attended a hate crime training conference at the College of Policing a few weeks ago, not only disability hate crime but the type of hate crime to which she has referred was very much on the agenda. She will be glad to know that the CPS is enhancing training for all the leaders in their regions, which I think will result in a renewed emphasis on the need to make victims confident that the system will work for them rather than against them.