People with autism among most likely to fall victim to disability hate crime, figures show

Campaigners call for more to be done to ensure those whose disability impacts them 'socially or behaviorally' get better support from police, prosecutors and wider community reports The Independent.

People who suffer from learning disabilities and autism are considerably more likely to experience hate crime than other disabled groups, figures show.

Analysis by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) shows people whose disability impacts them “socially and behaviourally” were four times more likely to be victims than those who said their disability impacted their mobility, stamina, and vision, as well as those with mental health problems.

Of a total of 88,000 adult victims of hate crime against the person between 2013 and 2016, 32 per cent were victims of a disability-motivated hate crime, according to the ONS statistics.

Adults who stated their illness or disability affected them socially or behaviorally, with conditions such as autism, had the highest prevalence rate (2 per cent) and were over four times more likely to be a victim of a disability-motivated personal hate crime than adults who stated their disability affected their stamina (0.3 per cent of adults), mobility or vision (0.4 per cent of adults) or their mental health (0.5 per cent of adults).

The findings, compiled on behalf of disability charity Dimensions, come after research by the charity in August found that nearly three quarters (73 per cent) of respondents had been victims of learning disability and autism hate crime — 53 per cent in the past year alone.

One victim supported by the charity, Alex, a man with a mild to moderate learning disability, found himself victim to exploitation by someone he believed was his friend.  As someone who didn’t find it easy to make friends, when Alex met a friendly man he was happy. They went on holiday together and he considered the man to be his best friend.

But the man was not who he seemed to be. He would sell Alex things at hugely inflated prices – like a knackered old stereo for £300. Alex didn’t really want them but couldn’t say no. When his "friend" loaned him £50, and only asked for £100 back, he thought it was "mates rates". When he was aggressive towards Alex – violent one minute, friendly the next — he believed that was just being mates too. 

Alex started being secretive, going out alone or staying in his room, and refusing to let people see his mobile phone. He became stressed, and was unaccountably broke. 

Then came the breakdown. Alex was admitted to hospital. After a while he allowed staff to see his mobile phone, and that’s when the scale of the problem became clear Alex had paid the man well over £2,000 and he was calling in numerous other “debts”, with threats of violence.

Alex was supported to call the police and the local authority safeguarding team. His SIM card was changed, and the man was ordered not to approach Alex’s house. But he could still follow him to work, or to the café, and when Alex moved house, he returned.

The police don't yet have the powers they need to charge him with anything, according to Dimensions.

Another man supported by the charity, Richard, who has a mild learning disability, experienced bullying throughout school and as an older teenager was targeted inside his flat by local youths, who would climb up onto his balcony, threaten him and call him names inside his flat.

He couldn’t persuade the police to take action and while his local councillor tried to help by getting anti climb paint put on his flat below the balcony, the youths continued to access his flat by putting planks over the paint. They would throw eggs at the glass and once they set a bin fire directly below his flat, but still the police did nothing.

One night, Richard returned home to find a neighbour blocking his apartment door and demanding money. He was stoned, would not move, and Richard had to go and sleep at his mum’s house that night. Once again, the police did nothing. 

In light of the findings, Dimensions has urged that more must be done to ensure that people with learning disabilities and autism get better support from police, prosecutors and the wider community.

Steve Scown, chief executive of the charity, said: “We’ve known for a long time that hate crime is a problem for people with learning disabilities and autism. This research finally proves that this group is targeted far more than any other.

“It’s time to tackle this head on and make sure people with learning disabilities and autism get the right support from police, prosecutors and the wider community.

"Now we know the shocking national prevalence, police forces across the country must examine local patterns of hate crime committed against people with learning disabilities and autism."

Dimensions is calling for disaggregated data recording, and has launched a campaign called #ImWithSam, which will work with the government and others to tackle learning disability and autism hate crime.

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