5. What assessment he has made of reasons for variations between police force areas in conviction rates for disability hate crimes. (905097)
A number of factors are likely to have an impact on the variation in conviction rates for disability hate crimes. I am actively considering them, and I believe that the best practice to provide consistency of approach is the network of hate crime co-ordinators that the Crown Prosecution Service has established, which includes a focus on the important issue of disability hate crime.
I thank the Solicitor General for his response, but there were an estimated 62,000 disability hate crimes in 2013, only 574 of which resulted in prosecution. As he said, there was huge regional variation in the prosecution rate. Is he as concerned as I am about that, and will he be a bit more specific about how he will address it to ensure that convictions for disability hate crime do not depend on where people live?
I am extremely grateful to the hon. Lady, who will know that I have a long-standing interest in the issue. In fact, I travelled to her region, the north-west, some months ago and met a local advocacy group based in Preston that deals with third-party reporting. Naturally, a lot of people with disabilities do not have the confidence to go straight to the police. I believe that through third-party reporting mechanisms we can bridge the gap between the 62,000 cases she mentioned and the small number of prosecutions. We have to improve that rate.
These are terrible crimes. One of the problems is inconsistency between police areas. Does the Solicitor General agree that an important role for the College of Policing is to make sure standards are consistent throughout the country?
The right hon. Gentleman is correct in his assumption. There was an invaluable round table at the national College of Policing in September, which I attended and spoke at, involving regional leads from all parts of the country. It was designed precisely to deal with hate crime, and disability hate crime in particular. By sharing best practice, such as the third-party reporting mechanisms I mentioned in my answer to the previous question, we can improve and raise the rates in relation not just to hate crime but to all crimes committed against people with disabilities.