The head of the judiciary has blamed the parliamentary logjam caused by Brexit for preventing the introduction of vital new laws that would make it easier for disability hate crime to be punished with stricter sentences.
The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, who retired last month, told the chief executive of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Nick Folland, that he agreed that too few disability hate crimes were being met with increased sentences.
He said that new legislation was needed to address the problem but that the time parliament was spending securing the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union meant that this would not be possible in the next few years.
Folland told CPS’s community accountability forum in September that Lord Thomas had made the comments to him in a private meeting earlier this year.
Anne Novis, a leading disability hate crime campaigner and adviser to the CPS and the Metropolitan police, and a member of the forum, was given permission by a senior CPS manager to pass the comments to Disability News Service (DNS).
Novis had raised concerns with the forum that too many offenders convicted of serious disability hate crimes were not being given enhanced sentences.
The courts have a legal duty* to increase sentences for offences found to be motivated by disability-related hostility.
But disability hate crime campaigners, including Novis and fellow forum member Stephen Brookes, have repeatedly raised concerns that it is too difficult to prove such hostility in court under the current legislation, and that it is far more difficult to secure sentence uplifts in disability hate crime cases than with other hate crimes.