Disability Equality Scotland At 20: Hate Crime Charter

As a national membership organisation, Disability Equality Scotland (DES), is continually focussed on the needs of disabled people and disability groups/organisations. One of our most significant projects over the last couple of years has very much built on this lived experience by members (and others) in the challenges of using public transport and of being a victim of hate crime.

There is currently no single accepted definition of the term ‘Hate Crime’ however Scottish Government and Police Scotland use this definition:

“Any crime which is perceived by the victim or any other person as being motivated (wholly or partly) by malice and/or ill will towards a social group.”

Taking the above definition of hate crime, there are currently five social groups, or groups with protected characteristics covered by this legislation:

  • Disability – includes any disability, both visible and non-visible and also covers mental health issues.
  • Race – includes being targeted because of your nationality, ethnicity, skin colour, accent, etc. or a combination of these.
  • Religion – includes all religions and beliefs, including people with no religion.
  • Sexual orientation – A person’s identity based on emotional and/or physical and/or romantic attraction to individuals of a different gender, the same gender, or more than one gender.
  • Transgender Identity – An umbrella term for someone whose gender identity or expression differs in some way from the gender assigned to them at birth.

When starting our investigations, we were shocked to discover that MENCAP believed that some 97% of disability hate crimes went unreported to the police. Some of the reasons for not reporting were: that disabled people feel like they might be a burden; or they might feel like no one would take any action anyway; or purely because they do not trust the police.

A more recent piece of Disability Equality Scotland research identified that only 48% of people said they would feel confident reporting disability hate crime – but that 92% said a Hate Crime Charter would make them feel more confident and safe travelling on public transport.

As our 20th Anniversary also falls within LGBT history month, we can also share further insight from LGBT Youth Scotland (2022), concerning public transport where: 48% of participants felt safe using public transport services (from 79% in 2012); 40% of transgender participants felt safe using public transport services (from 52% in 2012); 38% of non-binary people reported feeling safe on public transport (compared to males and females both at 53%); and 17% of all participants and 12% of transgender participants reported that they would not feel confident in reporting hate crime to police.

From such background information, Disability Equality Scotland took a leading role working with Transport Scotland, Police Scotland and transport providers across Scotland, to consult and engage with transport staff and disabled people about a Hate Crime Charter. The ultimate aim being to work towards a zero-tolerance approach to hate crime on the Scotland’s national transport network.

We held a series of events where disabled people came and shared their experiences of incidents of abuse, harassment and hate crime. With this support, we were able to design and pilot a charter which we launched in March 2021, with endorsement from the Minister for Transport.

The Charter intends to help passengers recognise incidents of hate crime and for public transport staff to understand the importance of supporting these passengers to make reports – which can be done anonymously. We are now working with transport partners, across all modes, bus, train and ferry operators, to promote the Charter and raise awareness among passengers that it exists.

Each transport provider that has signed up to the Hate Crime Charter as a supporter, believes everyone has the right to travel safely and any aggressive, bullying or harassing behaviour will not be tolerated on their services. Examples of hate crime will be taken seriously, and incidents will be reported to Police Scotland.

The Hate Crime Charter will only be successful if everyone feels confident identifying and reporting hate crime whilst travelling on public transport. There are a variety of ways of doing this, involving inclusive communication methods and encompassing (though not exclusively):

  • Dial 999 in an emergency.
  • Phone 101 for non-emergencies
  • Stop a police officer in the street
  • Emergency SMS 999 (for Deaf people)
  • British Sign Language (BSL) Scotland – video interpreting for BSL
  • 999BSL (new video emergency relay service for deaf BSL users)
  • Keep Safe Scotland – Phone App – easier version of Police Hate Crime Form
  • 3rd Party Reporting Centres
  • Text British Transport Police on 61016
  • Crimestoppers
  • disabilitysafety.scot

Disability Equality Scotland exists for and is led by its members. The Hate Crime Charter is a perfect example of the charity being involved in leading a national piece of work, whilst ensuring that our members’ voices are heard and acted upon, for the benefit of those persecuted in society.

For further details about the Hate Crime Charter, including how transport providers can pledge their support, visit: www.accessibletravel.scot/hate-crime