Peter Scott: Tackle disability-related hate crimes

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RECENT Crown Office statistics show that reported incidents of disability hate crime in Scotland are on the increase.

Disability prejudice accounted for 154 charges in 2013/14. It is, however, widely accepted that disability-related hate crime is significantly under-reported, and the actual figures are much higher. Behind every statistic lies an individual’s story, and at ENABLE Scotland we hear far too many such stories from our members who have learning disabilities.

ENABLE Scotland member Peter McMahon is an ardent campaigner against the bullying and harassment of people who have learning disabilities. Peter has a learning disability and has been the victim of bullying. As part of Peter’s efforts to try to ensure others don’t suffer the same experiences, he has made three films about his life. In his introduction to his first film, he explains his experience of being victimised on public transport:

“You’re getting cans of juice and bottles of water thrown at you. I had an occasion with three girls – they made fun of me. The bus was full and nobody came to my defence. One of them pushed me up against the window and was shouting at me. Her two pals were instigators, watching. They called me all the loonies, Mongol and spastics of the day, saying I had a face like an alien. It’s so frightening because I’ll not open my mouth and say it’s annoying me. I’m frightened to stand up to them in case they have a knife or something. It made me feel like I didn’t want to do anything for weeks and I shut myself in.”

Sadly, the majority of people who have learning disabilities will experience bullying. This is completely unacceptable and must not be tolerated. We must work harder to understand and tackle the root causes of disability-related hate crime, and to change attitudes.

With Scottish Government support, ENABLE Scotland is working with Strathclyde University to design a new resource for schools to use to educate children and young people about learning disability, and to promote understanding of difference. We are also working with other organisations to develop a campaign to be launched in November to raise awareness of learning disability and encourage positive attitudes.

By working together, we can support people who have learning disabilities to live free from fear of hate crime and bullying, and hopefully start to see reports of hate crime move in the opposite direction.

• Peter Scott is CEO OF ENABLE Scotland