On the 29th November a committee of MPs approved amendments to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill that will make incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation an offence which is long overdue. None of the Conservative MPs on the committee voted against the proposals. The Bill will now proceed to a report stage and third reading in the Commons before being sent to the Lords. See further details from Pink News.
It was originally thought that the provisions would be extended to cover incitement to hatred against trans people and disabled people but this does not now appear to be the case for definate and is only going to be considered. With the recent murder of Kellie Telesford and the countless murder, torture and brutality of trans people worldwide such as Gisberta, there is overwhelming evidence that the law needs to be extended to cover hatred against Trans people.
Incitement against hatred towards disabled people is also so much needed. Disability organisations and charities report that crimes against disabled people is worryingly common but there is massive under-reporting. The 2003 Criminal Justice Act made it the courts' duty to increase the sentence for "any offence aggravated by hostility based on the victim's disability". The law came into force in 2005, but the CPS only started recording cases as "disability aggravated" in April this year. Since then only 68 cases had been identified, but a BBC Radio 5 Live Report Hidden Hate has new figures showing a third of these were incorrectly recorded.
The CPS says at least 30 cases have been successfully prosecuted and it is "firmly committed to bringing the perpetrators of crimes against disabled people to justice". It points to a new system of 42 area-based disability hate crime coordinators, the inclusion of a new "disability aggravated" category into its monitoring of cases, and a new campaign to raise awareness among staff. The police have also accepted there has been massive under-reporting of the issue. Real levels were estimated to represent a "many 100-fold increase of cases compared to what the police know about" according to Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris in recent evidence to a parliamentary group considering the issue.
Several recent high profile cases have helped bring the issue to prominence including Kevin Davies, who had epilepsy and died after being locked up in a shed for five months and tortured by so-called friends. He was starved, beaten, burnt, branded, cut and neglected until he died. Murder could not be proved because Kevin had epilepsy and it was possible he died from a seizure. The defendants pleaded guilty to false imprisonment and assault but the case was not investigated as a disability hate crime.
See BBC Article Fears of Disability Hate Crime, CPS Disability Hate Crime Policy, CPS Guidance on prosecuting homophobic hate crime