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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 November 2007, 16:30 GMT
Disabled hate crime law planned
A wheelchair
Bulling against disabled people is a growing problem, groups say
Inciting hatred against disabled people is to be outlawed under government plans outlined in the Queen's Speech.

It will be added to proposals announced last month to make it a crime to incite hatred against gay, lesbian and transgender people.

Laws against religious hate crime were passed last year but were watered down amid concerns over freedom of speech.

David Congdon, of Mencap, said it made sense to extend the law to cover people with disabilities.

The new offence of inciting hatred against gay, lesbian, transgender and disabled persons is outlined in background papers to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill - which largely applies to England and Wales - carried over from the last Parliamentary session.

'Happy slapping'

It comes as, in Scotland, an MSP's backbench bid to put attacks against disabled or gay people on the same legal footing as a racist attack, passed its first parliamentary hurdle at Holyrood.

Damon Rose, editor of the BBC's Ouch website, said he had seen increasing stories about disabled people being bullied.

At the moment people don't take it as seriously as other forms of hate crime
Simone Aspis
British Council of Disabled People

"There is something about the happy slapping culture which hasn't helped disabled people. Disabled people are 'interesting' targets in that way," he said.

"There doesn't seem to be a concept of hate crime against disabled people. People don't understand the problem is there in the same way Queen Victoria maintained that lesbians did not exist."

Simone Aspis from the British Council of Disabled People, which represents 350,000 members, said a "huge number" of disabled people were being victimised.

"At the moment people don't take it as seriously as other forms of hate crime.

"Research suggests that you are four times more likely to be a victim of crime if you are a disabled person."

And David Congdon, head of campaigns and policy at Mencap, said it was important to try to "change the culture, to ensure people value each other equally".

"We know a lot of bullying goes on. A report we commissioned showed that nine out of 10 people with learning disabilities have been bullied," he said.

"Anything which makes it more difficult to do that is good."


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