Disability Rights Advocates Call For "Hate Crimes"
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 27, 2004
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND--A disability rights group in Scotland wants lawmakers to consider crimes against people with disabilities as "hate crimes".
Scotland's Disability Rights Commission made the recommendation as part of a report which found that one in five Scots with disabilities has experienced harassment based on a disability. In its "2003 Disability Awareness Survey", the DRC also found that 35 percent of people surveyed who knew someone with a disability had witnessed that person being harassed. People over age 65 were most likely to be targeted.
Scottish law currently has special "hate crimes" provisions for crimes motivated by religious or racial prejudice. The Scottish Executive has set up a Working Group on Hate Crime to determine how the law might better protect people of other specific groups. The DRC, which is represented on the working group, has consistently called for changes in the law to recognize hate crimes against disabled people and tougher penalties for convicted offenders, according to an organization statement released Tuesday.
"It is completely unacceptable that in the 21st century people find themselves victims of physical and verbal abuse and other types of crime, simply because they are perceived to be different," said DRC Scottish Director Bob Benson. "Public opinion is strongly in favor of criminalizing such behavior -- an overwhelming 88% of respondents in our survey felt harassment of disabled people should be made an offence."
"We believe that this consultation is a valuable contribution to the hate crimes debate, setting out how the law currently works as well as exploring the options for change. We are confident that responses to the consultation will prove very useful in advising Scottish Ministers on how to tackle hate crime in Scotland."
Advocates with DRC Scotland have pointed out that people with disabilities in England and Wales are provided more protection than those in Scotland, whose government is just now addressing the issue.
Disability Rights Commission -- Scotland