In January 2012, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) began his Foreword to the 'Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Hate crime and crimes against older people Report 2010-2011' by saying: "All crime is unacceptable but offences that are driven by hostility or hatred based on a personal characteristic set a particular challenge for a civilised society".
Within days of the closing ceremony of the 2012 Paralympic Games, Games during which elite athletes, who overcome their disabilities on a daily basis, have amazed and inspired millions of people around the world, the Association of Chief Police Officers published figures for reported disability hate crimes, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, from 1 January - 31 December 2011. The figures show a marked increase by comparison to 2010.
Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris said "The 2011 data importantly shows a further increase in dis-ability hate crime. While we would obviously want to see reductions in the incidence of all hate crime, we know that disability hate crimes have been significantly under-reported in the past. I would encourage anyone who is a victim of hate crime to report this..."
The CPS Report includes provisional statistics showing that in 2010/2011, 91.8% of victims of disability hate crimes required to attend court did so (a figure which speaks for itself) and that the national conviction rate was 79.8% of cases. Once a conviction has been achieved, the Criminal Justice Act 2003, section 146, provides for sentences to be increased for offences with "aggravation related to disability", alongside a duty to explain the aggravating feature in open court.
In March 2011, in a speech about disability hate crime, at the University of Sussex, the DPP said “Such crimes are based on ignorance, prejudice, discrimination and hate and they have no place in an open and democratic society.”
Hopefully, part of the legacy of the 2012 Paralympic Games will be a reduction in such "ignorance, prejudice, discrimination and hate" coupled with an increased belief in disabled people that society as a whole, values and supports them. If this growing confidence is reflected in further significant increases in reported disability hate crimes and conviction rates continue to be in the region of 80% or above and Courts impose appropriate sentences - together these should ultimately lead to a considerable reduction in the commission of disability hate crimes themselves. Then another aspect of the legacy of the 2012 Paralympic Games will be Britain as a more civilised and equal society.