Disablist Hate Crime - Exploring issues of vulnerability

Disabled people have faced a range of historic abuses often reflecting the context they were to be found in.

Alan Roulstone has been working with the chief executive of the Crown Prosecution Service, senior police personnel and the Disability Hate Crime Network in 2015 to draw lessons from his research on disablist hate crime.

Historically, where a crime was committed against a disabled person, constructions of vulnerability of the victim actually weakened hate crime responses. Equally, being framed as 'vulnerable' also meant a disabled person was more likely to be re/institutionalised, treated as an unreliable witness and in turn not being able to choose certain social activities non-disabled people take for granted. Alan's research established that perceptions and relations of vulnerability (making someone vulnerable via abuse) were closely intertwined with disablist hate crime. At the same time he established that treating the individual as the source of vulnerability meant criminal justice responses were focused largely on the 'vulnerable adult'.

Alan is a Professor of Disability Studies at the University of Leeds. His current work with the CPS, police and Law Commission aims to foster a more nuanced approach to vulnerability, one which explores the way in which vulnerability is created and maintained. In this sense as much attention is focused on the offender and their forms of manipulation of some disabled people. Attention is also focused on helping disabled people to identify the early stages of planned abuse, for example in cases of 'mate crime' where disabled people are falsely befriended. Alan has helped change the mindset of senior staff in key criminal justice and hate crime organisations and it is hoped the guidance on the legislation will in due course fully reflect these changing ideas about vulnerability and hate crime. 

Alan's work has also been featured in a blog article on the International Network for Hate Studies.