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|05 May 2017|
Forth Valley Stronger Together
The Learning Disability Alliance Scotland has produced a “Respect Diary” which is a simple system for people with learning disabilities to keep a record of incidents that they are concerned about. Many people hesitate to record small incidents but they can lead on to many. This diary can record these and then be used as evidence to involve authorities in more action later on. This can be downloaded here.
Another shocking story of everyday hate crime against people with learning disabilities in Scotland. Ivor Miller was waiting at a Glasgow street corner when a pack of hate filled young men and women started to taunt and punch him. A chase began which ended with Mr Miller falling out of a 2nd floor window. This dedicated hunt left Mr Miller in fear of his life and the gang waiting outside pubs he was hiding in until they could start the chase. On Tuesday, despite the judge calling the gang a "pack of animals" only one was sentenced to a custodial sentence, 3 others were give 150 hours community service and a fifth had their sentence deferred.
What led to Mr Millier sustaining serious fractures of his legs and back was an admitted catalogue of violence and abuse. However since only Mr Miller and his assailants were present in the 2nd floor flat where he had sought to hide and Mr Miller couldn't remember exactly what happened, the prosecution refused to press serious charges against his attackers. This case shows how the law lets down people with learning disabilities - where they cannot remember exactly what happened or are too scared to talk, then their attackers get away with lighter sentences.
However this case demonstrates another aspect that worries many people with learning disability. Mr Miller ran into 2 pubs to seek help and sanctuary. He got it in neither. In the 2nd pub, the Hootenanny, a barmaid threw him out of the pub into the hands of his pursuers even after he pleaded for her help. This case clearly demonstrates the need for "Keep Safe" places, a campaign being run by the I Am Me project to get more public spaces to know what to do when people with learning disabilities come into them seeking help and safety.
Sue Graham is 42 years old and has a learning disability. At the start of June, she was crossing a bridge in a quiet part of Edinburgh on her way to catch a bus. 3 young boys, probably not older than 12, approached her from the other side of the bridge, they stopped in front of her and called her an offensive name. Sue didn’t know what to do. She said afterwards “I could have run away but they would have caught me. I just stood there.”
The older boy asked her for money. “After a minute, I just gave them everything I had and they went away,” Sue told us afterwards. She was distressed and had to walk 2 miles to the meeting – her bus fares were part of what was stolen.
Disability Hate Crimes are common for people with learning disabilities. So common that they are rarely reported and even less is done about them. Sue never reported her incident. “It wasn’t much money”, she said.
The middle of August sees the start of Police Scotland’s Tackling Hate Crime Awareness month. Each week will feature a different type of Hate Crime, starting with disability, then moving on to gender, race and sexual orientation. Police Scotland want to take this seriously and so they should! Figures published earlier this year show a 270% increase in the reporting of disability hate crime in the last year alone.
Disability hate crime has unfortunately been with us for a long time. The EHRC report, Hidden In Sight reports that in 2007, Laura Milne, a young woman with learning disabilities living in Aberdeen was murdered by 3 people. She was repeatedly slashed across the throat with a kitchen knife. One of her three attackers, Debbie Buchan had bullied her in school and then joined in another attack on Laura with a golf club. It is likely there were many more unrecorded incidents of bullying that Laura had to endure before her death but no one ever reported them.
Earlier this year, Katharine Quaramby, author of “Scapegoat, Why We Are Failing Disabled People” carried out a small survey of people who had been the subject of hate crime attacks. She found that a sizeable number were linked to accusations of the victims being scroungers or faking to get extra benefits. It may be that the focus on “benefit scroungers” in the media and by some politicians has contributed to the rise. Her study is too small to have many answers but it does indicate that we need to understand the motivation of why disability hate crimes are carried out so we can deal with it better.
The Learning Disability Alliance Scotland is working alongside other voluntary organisations and Police Scotland to find new ways of tackling disability hate crimes. These include Keep Safe spaces – shops and offices - where people feeling threatened on the street can go in to for shelter and training for Police call centres to improve their work with disabled people.
And we are also launching this week our new wristband – “Disability Hate Crime – See It, Report It – Call 101.” Available in yellow and black, they are free to all our member organisations.
We think it really important that more people call 101 to report these incidents. That’s what Sue should have done. No one thought when Laura was first bullied by Debbie Buchan that it would end only a few years later with Buchan joining in her killing. Reporting even the smallest disability hate crime is the first step to making sure this kind of attack never happens again.
Hate crimes against the disabled have more than tripled in five years and prosecutors have warned the rise could be the tip of the iceberg. Reports of aggravation of prejudice relating to disability have risen by 270% from 48 in 2010/11 to 177 last year, official figures from the Crown Office have revealed. There was a 20% increase since 2013/14 alone.
The report states: "There is a broad consensus that this type of crime continues to be under reported compared to other forms of hate crime. Both Police Scotland and COPFS (Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service) are engaged in a variety of activities aimed at increasing the level of awareness, especially amongst disability communities, that hate crime is unacceptable and should not be tolerated."
The number of charges reported in all hate crime categories with the exception of disability fell in 2014/15 compared to the previous year. Racial crime remains the most commonly reported hate crime, with 3,785 charges reported in 2014/15, but this is the lowest number reported since 2003/04.
If you want to know where to report Disability Hate Crime, check out our map of 3rd Party Reporting Centres or call 101..
A local authority and a community special school are facing legal action on behalf of two autistic pupils over the use of a ‘calm room’ to manage their behaviours.
Law firm Leigh Day, which is acting for the claimants, said the pupils were allegedly ‘detained’ in the room at Abbey Hill School in Stoke on Trent for “for prolonged periods, where they defecated and urinated and showed other signs of considerable stress and anxiety”.
The claimants are now at alternative specialist autism centres.
In a letter to the school, Leigh Day claimed the two pupils had been “subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment and that the use of the ‘calm room’ for extended periods, without appropriate safeguards in place, was an unlawful act as it deprived pupils of their liberty”.
Merry Varney, a lawyer in the human rights team at Leigh Day said: “Although the use of seclusion and ‘calm rooms’ are recognised, positive tools to use to assist autistic children, these must be used appropriately with effective safeguards in place to prevent inappropriate use.
“Our clients appear to have been placed regularly in a very small room, with little natural light, sparse furniture, and no ability to leave, for an hour or more at a time. Rather than having any calming effect, the periods of seclusion led to significantly increased distress and deterioration in our clients’ behaviour.”
Varney added that the parents had not been informed at the time of the extent of the use of ‘calm room’.
Stoke have been approached for comment. A spokesman for Stoke said: “The allegations concern the use of the quiet room at the school and only relate to two pupils who left the school in 2012. The quiet room has not been used for more than 12 months. This matter is now the subject of legal discussions and it is not appropriate to comment further.”