Nottingham Mencap's Karen Aspley says changes to hate crime laws have been years in the making. Image Credit: Karen Aspley

Two charity co-ordinators have backed changes to hate crime laws which address the lack of protection given to disabled victims.  

Their comments come as a review by the Law Commission aims to address the disparities in legal protection given to different targeted groups.

The latest Crown Prosecution Service figures for Nottinghamshire show that there were only nine successful convictions for disability hate crime in 2018-19, compared to 192 for religion and race-motivated offences.

Karen Aspley, 54, leads Nottingham Mencap’s ‘SMILE! Stop Hate Crime’ campaign and believes the changes will give greater protection to disabled people.

Mrs Aspley, from Nottingham, said: “Under current hate crime legislation, victims of hate crime are treated differently, and this can affect what can be read out in court, whether sentences can be extended and more.

“We have been lobbying very hard for a change in the law, and have provided a substantial amount of qualitative and quantitive data to support the case for equality.

“This change will make the law simpler and I think that will assist everybody in being very clear about what hate crime is, and then how it needs to be prosecuted and dealt with.”

Micky Arnold, 55, echoed these calls, adding a change in law and attitude is needed to help disabled people.

Mr Arnold, from Nottingham, has mild learning and physical disabilities and is now a director of the Nottingham City Learning Disability and Autism Partnership Board.

Micky Arnold says life for disabled people has improved dramatically in the last 20 years. Image Credit: Karen Aspley

He has previously been subjected to attacks and threats with stones, fireworks and knives but now educates students, doctors and police officers on how to deal with disabled people.

He said: “Things are much better, but people are still scared to report things to the police, as even after reporting it there is still a long way to go [to conviction].

“We would report it more if they could catch them, but often nothing happens, and people worry that the offenders will get them back even worse.

“At the time the offences happen, you think it will last forever, but charities like Mencap have helped me see myself as a different person and think if people have a problem, it is theirs, not mine.”

The review of hate crime laws finished its consultation phase in late December and the final report will be published this year.