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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 May 2007, 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK
Disabled attacks hate crime plea
Wheelchair users
The charity has called for disability rights to match the UK
A charity has called for a change in the law in Scotland to treat attacks on disabled people as hate crimes.

Disability awareness charity Leonard Cheshire has written to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny MacAskill urging action on the issue.

England, Wales and Northern Ireland all treat attacks on disabled people as hate crimes.

A Scottish Executive spokeswoman said it is committed to expanding hate crime legislation to protect disabled people.

The charity said as it stands, the law effectively makes disabled people in Scotland second class citizens.

The letter, sent by Ryan McQuigg, Leonard Cheshire policy officer in Scotland, says the introduction in 2003 of the Criminal Justice Bill meant the rest of the UK now treated attacks on the disabled as hate crimes.

Disabled people in Scotland are not afforded the same rights
Ryan McQuigg
Leonard Cheshire

The charity has pointed out that the Scottish National Party made a manifesto commitment to change the law.

The letter refers to a Disability Rights Commission survey which found half of the disabled people asked had experienced verbal abuse, intimidation and/or physical attacks because of their disability.

Mr McQuigg said: "The disparity between Scotland and the rest of the UK has meant that disabled people in Scotland are not afforded the same rights and to a certain degree treated like second-class citizens compared to their peers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

"By creating this piece of legislation, the executive can send out a clear message that intolerance and discrimination has no place in a forward looking Scotland."

He said many attacks go unreported but added that new legislation would give people greater confidence to report incidents.

An executive spokeswoman said: "We are committed to expanding hate crime legislation to protect disabled people, and people from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community, as recommended by the working group on hate crimes set up by the Scottish Executive.

"Over the coming months we will be working to implement this and other commitments."


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