Online hate crimes against disabled people on the rise across Nottinghamshire

Janine Howard experienced online disability hate crime
Janine Howard experienced online disability hate crime

Recorded online hate crimes against disabled people is on the rise in Nottinghamshire, according a leading disability charity.

Charity Leonard Cheshire requested the information from Nottinghamshire Police, which shows a 13 per cent rise in online hate crime against disabled people between 2016/17 and 2017/18.

This is part of a 33 percent increase in recorded online disability hate crime across England and Wales, which charity bosses say is 'the tip of the iceberg'.

Nottinghamshire Police said: “We treat all reports of hate crime extremely seriously and would encourage anyone who has experienced this to contact us. We will treat any call or complaint with the upmost sensitivity and discretion.

“We know that hate crime, and particularly disability hate crime, is under reported and we are aware that these figures do not even begin to reflect the scale of disability hate crime.

"We are working closely with partner agencies to ensure our services are accessible to everyone – we have some fantastic support services in Nottinghamshire, such as the Safe Places scheme, and we continue to strive to deliver a service that works for everyone.

"There is no place in our society for hate of any kind.”

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.”

The charity also surveyed disabled people on their experiences of online disability hate crime and found 70 per cent of those who had experienced it had done so through Facebook or Facebook messenger app.

The next most common medium was email, with 22 per cent of those who have experienced online disability hate crime reporting it having happened there.

For 35 per cent of those who experienced online disability hate crime, it came from a stranger whose name they could see, whilst 34% suffered it from someone who was anonymous.

Terence McCorry, Leonard Cheshire disability hate crime advocate said: “There are many reasons a disabled person might not report a crime to the police. They may not think the incident is worth bothering police for or they may have had a bad experience reporting issues in the past. They may lack confidence in speaking out and traditional reporting methods, such as the phone, may not be accessible for their disability.

“I advocate for those who experience disability hate crime and work closely with police. In fact, a big part of my role is building better relationships between the police and survivors of hate crime. The officers I work with are passionate about disabled people feeling able to speak to them and I truly believe the advocacy work Leonard Cheshire does is helping everyone learn to take online hate crime more seriously.”

The charity is hoping these figures will cause everyone to take online hate crime more seriously, given the consequences it has on survivors.

An anonymous respondent told Leonard Cheshire, anonymously: “The online abuse affected my mental and emotional health, I was unable to sleep properly for months. Experiences like this make me worried for younger people with disabilities who may be more susceptible.”