Disabled Hate Crime

22nd January 2019 Business Crime

Katie Price started an online petition last year which has been supported by more than 220,000 people to make online abuse a criminal offence after her son Harvey has been the victim of abhorrent trolling.

Harvey is severely disabled. He is partially blind, autistic and has Prader- Willi Syndrome (a genetic disorder). Last year Katie went on Loose Women and announced that her petition would be discussed in the House of Commons and today it has been backed by MP’s. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 defines disability as any physical or mental impairment. This includes persons with physical or learning disabilities.

Katie said that she has “to go along and give my experience about Harvey. The reason I started it is because - not just because of him, it will help other people - he was getting trolled so much about his colour, his size, his condition. And although I had people arrested and everything, the police can’t take it any further because there’s nothing in place.„

Under the current law, hate crime laws do not treat all protected characteristic equally. Under s.28-32 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 it is a crime to incite hatred because of religion or race, but disability is not covered.

Social media giants like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have been criticized for allowing hate crime to appear on their platforms & they have been urged to re-evaluate the role that they are playing in all of this. Parliament has published the following in relation to social media companies:

  • Social media companies should be required to ensure that terms and conditions, community standards, account policies and other forms of guidance are accessible to all disabled people, including people with learning disabilities. That includes Easy Read versions of all relevant policies.
  • Social media companies should be required to ensure that systems for reporting abuse or other concerns and setting privacy and other preferences are accessible to all disabled people, including adults with learning disabilities.
  • Social media companies should be required to demonstrate that they have consulted and worked in partnership with disabled people when developing their policies and processes.

The Committee Chair, Helen Jones said that “our inquiry into online abuse and the experience of disabled people has shown that social media is rife with horrendous, degrading and dehumanising comments about disabled people..The law on online abuse is not fit for purpose and it is truly shameful that disabled people have been forced off social media while their abusers face no consequences.’

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Peter Grogan is a Partner and Head of Department located in Manchester in our Business Crime, Regulation & Driving Offences department

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