Online hate crime against disabled people on the rise

A new study from disability charity Leonard Cheshire indicates an alarming rise in digital hate crime against disabled people.

Chloe Green | 20th May 19
Image shows a young girl looking sad holding her phone 820379104

Online disability hate crimes are on the rise, according to a report from disability charity Leonard Cheshire.

The charity has found that there was a 33% increase in recorded online hate crime against disabled people between 2016/17 and 2017/18.

The biggest increases in incidents between 2016/17 and 2017/18 were in counties including Surrey, Norfolk and Suffolk, according to data from Freedom of Information requests. Norfolk and Suffolk saw the biggest increases in recorded crimes. Incidents were up from four to 23 and two to 20 respectively for those police forces between 2016/17 and 2017/18.

Although Kent did not report such a large increase, it had the most crimes reported in 2017/18, with 30 on record.

Leonard Cheshire helps “opening doors to opportunity, choice and support in communities around the globe.” The charity helps support individuals to live, learn and work as independently as they choose, whatever their ability, and are led by people with experience of disability.


Under-reporting endemic

The increase in reporting could indicate a rise in online hate crimes, but may also be a sign of more proactive police forces and victims willing to report them and speak up.

Charity Leonard Cheshire calls for more support for victims of online disability hate crime across the UK and for technology giants to do more to help.

CEO Neil Heslop said: “Police are increasingly recording online offences, but we know it remains an under-reported area and that disabled people may have reservations about speaking out.

“We suspect many crimes remain under the radar, with survivors never getting support and perpetrators facing no consequences,” said Neil Heslop, Leonard Cheshire chief executive

Janine Howard, who experienced online disability hate crime and was supported by Leonard Cheshire’s hate crime advocacy services said: “People I don’t know take my photograph when I am out and about, they post it on social media for others to comment on.”

“The comments are nasty, hurtful and leave me feeling frightened and angry. There is no escaping this online abuse if I want to use social media. It’s horrible to know that my family might see this abuse online.”

“These offences can have a devastating impact on the lives of survivors. We know from our work with disabled people that hate crime causes long-term fear, anxiety and, in some cases, isolation,” added Mr Heslop.

Leonard Cheshire is now calling for global technology and media companies, such as Twitter and Facebook to tackle online disability hate crimes and do more to protect users and victims.

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