Disability Hate Crime Network

Article by David Wilkin August 2020 in the time of Covid 19

Hate Incidents are acts of hostility conducted against someone because they are in some way different.

Hate Crimes are the same as the above, except a crime has also been committed. For example, to block someone from using a priority seat because they have a disability may count as an Incident. But to do that and abuse them as well is a crime.

To abuse someone is a crime under the Public Order act 1986. But to abuse someone because of the following characteristics is an aggravated crime because the victims suffer greater psychological damage and the effects are likely to be prolonged. British law states that people are susceptible to Hate Incidents and Crimes because of their:

  • Race or ethnicity
  • Decision to change their gender
  • Sexual preferences, for example, being gay, lesbian, non-binary etc.
  • Disability
  • Religion

Why are Hate Incidents or Crimes in a special category?

It has been shown that people who are attacked because of their identity, because of who they are or who they choose to be, does lasting damage to the way they think and how they conduct their lives. For example, someone who is attacked because they have a disability is unlikely to want to be on your bus, unlikely to be confident to face the world and sometimes unlikely to leave the safety of their home.

What is Disability Hate Crime?

Disability Hate Crimes (DHC) (or Incidents) are particular attacks against disabled people. These are often different from other hate offences in that these might be perpetrated by friends, family members or carers. This factor also means that disability hate crimes are less likely to be reported. Hostility against disabled people is happening in public, in the privacy of people’s homes and in care settings. The upset at such offences is not only immediate in that the hostility is embarrassing or even frightening – but in the longer-term this type of attack can leave deep psychological damage. When it happens, victims often feel quite alone and unwilling to report these matters. Examples of hostility might include: abuse; name calling; blocking aisles and priority seating; removing equipment or even violence. Reporting these incidents and crimes is important if you want these attacks to stop and you want justice for your victimisation.

At the moment, because of the special regulations being enforced due to the Covid-19 virus, the UK government is insisting that face coverings are worn in certain circumstances. However, there are exemptions to wearing these and some disabled people cannot wear a covering. The general public remains mainly unaware of these exemptions and hostility is therefore being conducted against some disabled people.  A list of exemptions that apply is available at: www.gov.uk/government/publications/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own A recently published article reveals how this hostility is being perpetrated, and this article can be found here: https://thebscblog.wordpress.com/

David Wilkin also runs a Facebook group called the Disability Hate Crime Network where advice is available and victims, and their supporters, chat about hate incidents and crimes. This award winning Network was originally created in 2007 by Disability Rights UK Ambassador, Stephen Brookes. If you would like to look at this Network, or to join it, please go to: www.facebook.com/groups/disabilityhatecrimenetwork At the moment we are collecting reports of disabled people who have been victimised in public because they are not wearing a face covering. If you have been a victim of hostility, or you know of someone else who has been, please let us know via the Disability Hate Crime Network. This information will be collected and used anonymously to help notify the government regarding how disabled people are being victimised.

What can I do to report a Hate Incident or Crime or help people who might be victims?

We need to make more people aware of DHC. The more the police know about these attacks the more they can protect all of us. Anyone can report an incident or crime to the police on 101(999 in an emergency). You can use the Truevision website at: www.report-it.org.uk/disability_hate_crime.

Or you can use one of the many Third Party Reporting (TPR) centres which are appearing all over the UK. These are operated by charities and other agencies. One example is: Stop Hate UK www.stophateuk.org/talk-to-us/

 Advice is available from organisation like Victim Support: www.victimsupport.org.uk/more-us/contact-us

 Alternatively, you can report the Incident or Crime to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 free, or online, just search for ‘crimestoppers’.

 Keep safe!


Dr David Wilkin

David’s specialism is disability hate crime. His activities include public speaking, lecturing, publishing and consultation work with the UK police and other authorities. David has been both a victim of DHC and is a passionate campaigner to bring these crimes to light. David conducts research on the topic and is in continuing contact with victims of DHC and their associates. In 2020, David was awarded an Honorary Fellowship at the School of Criminology at the University of Leicester. He is also the Lead Coordinator of the UK-based Disability Hate Crime Network. All of David’s research and other activities are self-funded. 


Contact David

Honorary Fellow at the School of Criminology, University of Leicester


Lead Coordinator of the Disability Hate Crime Network


Email: drw25@le.ac.uk

Twitter: @DavidRWilkin