By Local Democracy Reporter Katie May Nelson
Hate crimes in Kent targeted at people living with disabilities have fallen but prosecution of those offences was only taken in just over 1% of cases in the past year.
The number of offences recorded by Kent Police as disability hate crime fell from 622 to 504 (19%) between April 2018 and the end of March this year.
However, a Freedom of Information request by the Local Democracy Reporting Service has revealed just six of these offences resulted in a charge, summons or postal requisition. Two were charged for alternate offences.
In the last three years, there has been a decrease in every type of crime which could involve a hate crime element, except for malicious communications which rose from 66 in 2018/19 to 82 in 2019/20.
Figures from two categories remained the same: criminal damage to a vehicle (16) and threats to kill (two).
The biggest offence recorded which involved disability hate crime was intentional harassment, alarm or distress, with 122 incidents in the last year.
National charity Leonard Cheshire helps support disabled people’s access to work, learning, and their rights.
Terence McCorry, the charity’s disability hate crime advocate, said: “While the number of reports of disability hate crime is beginning to decrease in Kent, there is still an unacceptable disparity between the number of crimes and the number of charges.
“Our recent research with United Response showed that on a national level, very few cases lead to concrete charges and convictions.
“For more cases to get through the courts, it is really important that disability hate crime victims feel safe and supported when reporting these crimes.
“This crime must be taken more seriously. No one should be discriminated against for their disability but, sadly, this type of behaviour leaves many people isolated from their communities and even afraid to leave their own homes.”
Chief Inspector Lara Connor, of Kent Police’s Partnerships and Communities team, said: “Kent Police is committed to ensuring we protect the most vulnerable in our society and to the delivery of a first class service to victims and witnesses of all crime.
“Crimes motivated by prejudice are abhorrent and all incidents reported to us are investigated thoroughly and we take a robust stance against all forms of hate crime to ensure that the county remains a safe place for all.
“Kent Police is committed to providing the best possible service to all victims and as a force we are not driven by meeting targets, but instead focus on meeting the needs of the victim and ensuring they are safeguarded.
“We follow strict national guidelines when recording and investigating crime and it is important to remember that a charge is one of 21 possible outcomes for an investigation.
“When a victim contacts Kent Police to report a crime, several processes begin and these can include offering advice and support, putting in place safeguarding measures as well as commencing an investigation.
“We will always listen to the victim and when it is not in their best interest to attend court, we will explore more suitable outcomes.
“Hate crime of all types, including that aimed at disabled people, will simply not be tolerated.
“We will continue to target those responsible and support all communities within Kent to reduce the likelihood of them becoming victims.
“We have built strong links with partner organisations and advisory groups to ensure that those with disabilities have confidence in us when they report issues.
“Victims of hate crime need not suffer in silence and we encourage them to report all incidents to us.
“We have introduced a number of measures including drop-in centres and educational workshops to encourage reporting, and the feedback on these has been positive.”