Two people involved in the brutal murder of a disabled man who was imprisoned and tortured to death have had their sentences increased by the court of appeal. Julie Mills and Nicole Lawrence were originally sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court last year after being convicted of involvement in the death of Lee Irving. He had been repeatedly kicked, punched and stamped on by James Wheatley, in attacks that took place over nine days, leaving him with multiple broken bones and other injuries. After he died, his body was taken on a pushchair through a housing estate and dumped on a patch of grass near the A1 in Kenton Bar, Newcastle. The court of appeal decided this week that the prison sentences of eight years and four years handed to Mills and Lawrence were too low, and resentenced Mills, Wheatley’s mother, to 10 years in prison, and Lawrence, his girlfriend, to seven years. Wheatley did not have his life sentence for murder – of which he will serve at least 23 years – challenged, while the
Deplorable hate crimes against people with disabilities have risen by a shocking 213% since 2007/08, new figures reveal.
Figures from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) show there were 574 reported cases of disability hate crime in 2014, up from 183 in 2007/08.
A total of 4,000 cases of disability hate crime have been brought by the CPS since the offense was first introduced in 2007.
However, Stephen Brookes from the Disability Hate Crime Network said the worrying figure is likely to be much higher, because too many instances of disability hate crime or either not reported or are overlooked.
“I believe the number of people actually suffering is equivalent to the number who report religious and race hate crime each year – 60,000″, said Mr Brookes.
After the Equality and Human Rights Commission 2011 report on disability hate crime, Hidden in Plain Sight, the government agreed to publish perpetrator analysis. Yet despite repeated requests it has not. So the Disability Hate Crime Network, a voluntary group campaigning against the crime, carried out a small, online survey of 100 disabled people last month to ask them more about the perpetrators of hate crimes. We asked about the gender, race and age of the attackers, location of the incident, whether the attacker acted alone or in a group, and about perceived motivation.
More than half of respondents (57%) said they were attacked on the street, and one-fifth on public transport. A quarter of incidents occurred at home. Other people were attacked in pubs and shops, with some mentioning social media. Perpetrators were overwhelmingly white.
Around half (49%) of all attacks were group based. Women were involved in most group attacks (men were more involved in lone attacks). One victim said they were: “Pushed from chair by women, verbally abused by both men and women. Usually older people.” Another reported: “Worst incident – an older white woman. Otherwise, mostly men.” Another said: “Young mother with child abused me in a shop car park.” In the Crown Prosecution Service Hate Crime Report 2013-214, women were convicted of 25% of disability hate crimes, but only between 13-15% of other forms of hate crime.
Motivation varied widely, but 11 out of 60 comments on the incidents said attackers mentioned “benefits” or “scroungers”. “I was verbally abused as a scrounger whilst shopping … using a mobility scooter,” said one respondent. “I was asked why I use a wheelchair sometimes, but sticks on other days. I tried to explain my condition varies from day to day. I was then told I was just fat and lazy and was doing it to get benefits,” said another.
Jealousy of the perceived “perks” of disability, such as the adapted car, seemed to be a motivating factor in some attacks. Disabled people are also perceived as in the way. “On one occasion when I fell a man just stepped over me like I was vermin”, said a respondent. Another said: “There’s usually some kind of ‘useless’ part of the labelling..,a get out of the way, or why are you blocking everything up, or some such.” Space on buses came up as a common flashpoint: “The bus was quite full but a guy who had a pram wanted to sit with his partner and demanded I move. I said no and tried to explain my disability. He called me a ‘spas’ and a ‘mong’”.
The network has shared the research with the CPS and the EHRC. But a longer piece of detailed research is overdue. Why are so many women involved? Why so many group attacks? If we can understand the motivation, perhaps we can start to develop a prevention strategy to combat this crime.
A more detailed summary of the research can be found atkatharinequarmby.wordpress.com
Read the full article online: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/jul/22/combat-disability-hate-crime-understand-people-commit
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has issued controversial new guidance on disability hate crime which could cut the number of successful prosecutions, after a senior government barrister concluded that the existing guidelines were unworkable.
Disability News Service (DNS) understands that CPS and senior police officers believe that it has been almost impossible to persuade a magistrate or judge that a crime was motivated partly by hostility towards disabled people.
This means that few offences receive the increased sentences given to crimes accepted by the courts as disability hate crimes.
Disability News Service (DNS) has been reporting on the criminal justice system’s failings on disability hate crime since 2009, while the police, prosecutors and probation service – and other agencies, including the courts – have repeatedly been urged to improve.
Under section 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, the courts must increase the sentence for any offence where a defendant has demonstrated hostility towards disabled people, or where the offence has been shown to be motivated by hostility.
The previous CPS guidance argued that this “reflects the significant impact hate crime has on the victim and on the community”.
But following a report by a senior government barrister, which was critical of the current system, DNS understands that offences will now only be treated as disability hate crimes by police and prosecutors if they are clearly motivated by disability-related hostility.
But this is likely to be controversial – and to split opinion among hate crime campaigners – as it could easily lead to fewer successful hate crime prosecutions.
Under the new guidelines, to be published today (Friday), courts are more likely to treat disabled victims of violence and abuse as “vulnerable” rather than as victims of hate crime.
This could still result in a stricter sentence – on the grounds that the victim was in a vulnerable situation – but could be seen as a significant step backwards in the long fight for recognition that disabled people are frequent victims of hate crime.
And the sentence uplift for “vulnerability” is likely to be lower than that for a disability hate crime.
A CPS spokeswoman said the new guidance “encourages the use of section 146 where possible, and reminds prosecutors that where an application for an uplift under section 146 is not appropriate, the vulnerability of a victim due to their disability may still make an offence more serious and so prosecutors should present the case in a way which enables the judge to reflect this in sentencing.
“A nationwide training programme for all lawyers is also being planned and is a sign of our commitment to tackling this nasty crime.
“Hate crime continues to be a key priority for the CPS and we are committed to continue applying for sentence uplifts wherever the evidence and the law allows.”
She said that she could not comment on the government barrister’s advice, and added: “Whenever the CPS seeks legal advice, the content of that advice is always confidential.”
Stephen Brookes, one of the coordinators of the Disability Hate Crime Network, said the new guidance was “not ideal” but was “a step forward in one way”.
He said he was “not massively disappointed”, and added: “Nobody used [section 146] because nobody knew how to use it.
“It is going to lead to more successful section 146s, but more importantly it is going to lead to better prosecutions at the vulnerability level.
“It’s a better solution because it takes out some of the mud from what we have got. At least it provides some clarity.”
But another coordinator of the network, journalist and author Katharine Quarmby, who has played a key role in raising awareness of disability hate crime over the last eight years, warned that the new emphasis on “vulnerability” could be a backward step.
Even if crimes receive a higher sentence because of the victim’s “vulnerability”, she said the effect of declaring an offence a disability hate crime was crucially important.
And she said that offences often start off with criminals grooming a disabled person who has found themselves in a vulnerable situation – perhaps because of a lack of support – but end up as hate crime.
Quarmby – author of a pioneering book on disability hate crime, Scapegoat – pointed to the case of Kevin Davies, a young disabled man who was befriended, and then held captive in a locked garden shed for nearly four months, fed scraps of food, and humiliated and tortured by his “friends”, while his benefits were stolen.
She said: “They say that it is now crystal clear what a disability hate crime is, as opposed to a ‘vulnerability’ crime.
“They are convinced that they will know a section 146 crime and therefore they will immediately leap to ask for section 146 to be imposed.
“I am sceptical. I think we still don’t get away from a blurring of the boundaries. Cases start as one thing and turn into another, a point made by Ken Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions, who was the first head of the CPS to take the issue seriously.”
CPS has promised to review the effectiveness of the new guidance early next year.
In May, a report by HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and HM Inspectorate of Probation concluded that the police, CPS and probation service had failed to implement recommendations they had made in 2013 on dealing with disability hate crime.
The 2013 report, Living in a Different World, said the criminal justice system had let down victims, pointing out how failings across the system helped lead to some of the most notorious disability hate crimes, including the deaths of Francecca and Fiona Pilkington, David Askew and Michael Gilbert.
For a collection of DNS news stories about disability hate crime, visitwww.longcaresurvivors.co.uk
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com
Victims of disability hate crimes are being failed by police, prosecutors and the probation service, according to a report by inspectors.
Despite earlier recommendations on improving the way criminal justice agencies help those targeted and attempts to drive up the reporting of incidents, it found that insufficient progress has been made.
The combined report by HM inspectorates of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), police and probation is a follow-up to a 2013 investigation. It said none of these services have complied fully with changes ordered by an earlier inquiry.
Disability hate crime has been the subject of heightened concern following high-profile cases such as that of Fiona Pilkington, who killed herself and her disabled daughter Francecca Hardwick in 2007 after Leicestershire police failed to investigate the years of torment they endured.
The report said: “Although this follow-up report has identified some examples of good practice relating to awareness raising at a national level, neither the police nor the CPS has succeeded in significantly improving performance at an operational level.”