All political parties must take action on disability hate crime

Kerry Thompson

Kerry tells us how experiencing online hate crime affected her, why allyship is so important and what she would like to see the government do to tackle it.

Kerry Thompson in a formal black dress in a garden

In 2021, I wrote an article called Writing on Eggshells for Leonard Cheshire. The charity, working with partner organisation United Response, runs a vital annual hate crime awareness campaign. The piece looked back at when I started writing my blog, My Life, Kerry’s Way. It had never occurred to me that I would receive negative or hateful comments just because I’m disabled and sharing my journey.

What is a disability hate crime?

To summarise the official definition, a disability hate crime can be:

  • A crime that involves hostility based on someone’s disability (or their perceived disability).


  • A crime that is motivated by hostility to someone’s disability (or their perceived disability).

Disability hate crimes can take many different forms. People can face constant abuse, violence or sexual harassment. People can face mental and physical harm, even death threats. People can face online trolling, bullying, threats and harassment. The experience can lead to trauma and complications.

Not everyone will report a hate crime or hate incident

In reality, many people don’t even realise they are a victim of hate crime and don’t go on to report it. And for those brave enough to speak out, the whole investigation can be challenging. The proportion of crimes making it to court remains low.

As someone who has faced abuse online and offline, I can understand not reporting it to the police. My reasoning might vary from that of others. I didn’t want to be seen as a “victim” or a burden. I thought I could handle it, ignore it or even brush it off.

Serious consequences

However, those hateful comments are hard to ignore. I knew these comments were coming from people hiding behind their keyboards and, more than likely, from fake accounts. You just can’t help but have this gut-wrenching fear.

It heavily affects your mental health. You can spend hours trying to understand, “why you, and why those words?”. Even today, I’m faced with a different form of online abuse where my character and morals are being questioned. I’ve also spent countless hours crying about the words people have chosen to use about me as a person. 

I’ve been questioning myself and replaying their words over and over in my head. In a way, I still am. There’s a crucial difference now: I’ve opened up to my support network instead of just bottling it up.

I’ve been questioning myself and replaying their words over and over in my head. In a way, I still am. There’s a crucial difference now: I’ve opened up to my support network instead of just bottling it up.

Allyship is crucial

We need more people to be allies in the fight against disability hate crime. If you come across a disability hate crime, it is not always possible or expected for you to intervene (I wouldn’t want people putting themselves at risk).

Instead, afterwards, you can offer support to the person who experienced it: ask them if they are okay and if there is anything you can do; offer to share your recollections of the incident with the person or the police.

More broadly, we’d like allies to have a better understanding of the lives of disabled people in the UK and the challenges they face. So please check out books or articles on this topic, written by disabled authors.

Hate crimes still not resulting in a charge

We now have the latest figures for 2022/23 thanks to research by Leonard Cheshire and United Response surveying all UK police forces. This shows us that the number of hate crimes is similar to last year. 

Crucially, the percentage of disability hate crimes in England and Wales leading to a charge is still very small: less than 2% of all disability hate crimes resulted in a charge or summons (a summons is a written order to attend court). 

This is way too low. Northern Ireland has slightly more encouraging figures, where 13.7% of hate crimes resulted in a charge.

Clear action needed from political parties

As with all hate crimes, disability hate crime has a profound impact on people’s lives. Yet, we rarely see disability hate crime discussed, and it is often an afterthought. All police forces should employ a dedicated Disability Liaison Officer (DLO). The government should reverse its poor decision not to publish a specific strategy on hate crime. If it is merged into a broader crime strategy, hate crime will be lost or, worse, barely mentioned.

The government and all political parties must make clear commitments: to reduce disability hate crime, support people affected by it, and educate people about disability rights. 

We must tackle disability hate crime and ableism.